Sunday, January 31, 2021

Will Rosalind Brewer Evolve Walgreens in a Grocerant Destination


Success does leave clues and Rosalind Brewer has demonstrates an ability for lifelong learning, growing business successfully, and continued personal growth according to Steven Johnson, Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions®

Working at the intersection of fresh food, merchandising, and retail discovery Rosalind Brewer, once led Walmart’s Sam’s Club division as CEO before departing to be Chief Operating Officer of Starbucks, and has recently been selected to be the next CEO of drugstore operator Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA).

It is clear facts matter to Brewer.  Facts have contributed to her success. We must also note that Brewer was with Kimberly-Clark Corp. for 22 years, starting as a scientist and ultimately becoming president of the global nonwovens sector in 2004.

Around the globe the retail world has been disrupted the past year, Brewer who begins her new role March 15, 2021, has had a front row seat actively adapting, adjusting business models to complement customers desires, with new ‘local’ restrictions and regulations.  

For those of you who don’t know, Walgreens Boots Alliance operates the largest U.S. drug chain, with more than 9,000 units under the Walgreens and Duane Reade brands in all 50 states. It also controls Boots stores in Europe and Asia and international wholesale and distribution networks under the Alliance Healthcare banner. Thus, the insights Brewer gain while at Starbucks will complement her insights moving forward.

Regular readers of this blog know that Walgreens has been experimenting with fresh food retailing for many years, in fact Walgreens as many readers of this blog know was once the largest chain restaurant in the U.S. serving meals at a ‘lunch counter’.

Recently, Walgreens has experimented with Kroger on various strategies, including a fleet of stores doing double duty as online grocery pickup points and other stores testing Kroger-aligned food departments. Walgreens separately has pioneered food-to-go and substantial grocery offerings in many of its stores.

Here is what the team at Foodservice Solutions® knows:

1.       62.3% of all U.S. households are comprised of one or two people. US Census

2.       Online food and beverage sales — including grocery plus restaurant online delivery — jumped 125% to $106 billion over the 52 weeks ended Nov. 30, accounting for 12% of overall dollars spent in those categories, NielsenIQ data shows. 

3.       Restaurant digital ordering and delivery grew 300% faster than dine-in traffic since 2014.

4.       Grocerant ScoreCards found 82.3% of consumers don’t know what’s for dinner at Noon, and 61.1 don’t know what’ s for dinner at 4PM %.

5.       Prepared food purchases are frequently a planned purchase among 59% of shoppers, while 41% of shoppers said they buy prepared foods on impulse. Dinner has the highest amount of prepared food buys with 79% of respondents making purchases for that meal, while lunch comes in at 77% and breakfast at 62%.

While at Starbucks, Brewer was instrumental in helping the company accelerate its growth strategy, expand its global reach, and drive value, developing a mobile order and pay platform and revamping its rewards program.

Brewer recently stated, “The healthcare industry is constantly evolving, and I am excited to work alongside the entire WBA team as we deliver further innovation and positively impact the lives of millions of people around the world every day. This is especially true today as the company plays a crucial role in combatting the COVID-19 pandemic. I step into this role with great optimism for the future of WBA, a shared responsibility to serve our customers, patients and communities, and a commitment to drive long-term sustainable value for shareholders.”

It's at the intersection of retail, the healthcare industry, and the halo of ‘better-for-you’ fresh food discovery aka grocerant niche Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat fresh prepared food that Walgreens will elevate discovery edifying a tomorrow’s long-term relationship with today’s and tomorrow’s customers.

Don’t over reach. Are you ready for some fresh ideations? Do your food marketing ideations look more like yesterday than tomorrow? Interested in learning how Foodservice Solutions® can edify your retail food brand while creating a platform for consumer convenient meal participationdifferentiation and individualization?  Email us at: or visit us on our social media sites by clicking the following links: Facebook,  LinkedIn, or Twitter

Battle for Share of Stomach

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Will the Superbowl and DoorDash become Synonymous


Once again Food and the Superbowl will take center stage across the U.S. and one thing just might be a bit different this year. Instead of cook up a storm Steven Johnson, Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions® thinks DoorDash’s knowledge of the today’s food consumers will be their advantage on game day.

DoorDash knows that wings are no longer the top food choice for football fans, yet there are more companies now selling wings than ever before and as regular readers of this blog know many of the new wing companies are virtual restaurants run by legacy chain restaurants.

DoorDash found that this year’s fan-less NFL season, delivery and takeout orders of mozzarella sticks took the No. 1 spot, pushing boneless wings down to second place. Chips and salsa, Caesar salad and pepperoni pizza followed in that order. According to Johnson that’s an advantage in both customer knowledge and product that elevates DoorDash in the minds-eye of the consumer.

Now get this surprise, desserts rose to the top during Wildcard Weekend, compared to the same NFL playoff period last year. So, they were not done, Churros led in the sweet’s category, up 464% from 2020.  Brownies were next, rising 405%, followed by banana pudding with an increase of 307%. So, just what are you thinking about now?  What is on your menu for delivery Superbowl weekend?

Here is why you need to know this, the DoorDash survey also revealed that 93% of Americans plan to watch the Super Bowl on Feb. 7, and 48% of respondents plan to order takeout or delivery for the big game.  Once again what is on your grocerant niche mix and match game day meal bundle?

DoorDash was not alone looking a customer ahead Frito-Lay’s new Snack Index also tracked the change in fans’ eating trends over the past year.  The research found that while large gatherings won’t be happening on Feb. 7, the company expects a 21% increase in snacking compared to previous Super Bowls driven by consumers staying at home. More than 40% of Americans are snacking more than they did last year. 

For you old timers, let’s not forget Chips and dip are the top game-day choice, with salsa ranking as the No. 1 dip for the third year in a row with 42% of consumers surveyed. The team at Foodservice Solutions® thinks the Superbowl food success clues will be found at DoorDash.

Invite Foodservice Solutions® to complete a Grocerant Program Assessment, Grocerant ScoreCard, or for product positioning or placement assistance, or call our Grocerant Guru®.  Since 1991 Foodservice Solutions® of Tacoma, WA has been the global leader in the Grocerant niche. Contact: or 253-759-7869

Friday, January 29, 2021

Food Demographics Indicate Customer Migration


Yes, the times they are changing once again. Looking a customer ahead many times means just looking at today’s consumers path to purchase and follow the customer the according to Steven Johnson, Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions®. At other times it requires taking a look back then you can look forward according to Johnson.

If you want to make inroads with Gen Z the customer of tomorrow. UNiDAYS recently found attitudes and behaviors of Gen Z consumers while stifled like all other by the pandemic, they found four key themes food retailers should pay attention to and our team they deserve a second look now:

1. Move Past the Broke Student Mentality

According to the report, 78 percent of Gen Z’s spend the majority of their money on food. However, Gen Z has already proven to be more financially savvy than their Millennial counterparts. So, even though they have the money to spend, they want to be careful about how they spend it.

2. Community-Based Incentives Are Key

Nearly 93 percent of Gen Z’s say they “are more likely to try a restaurant that offers discounts.” UNiDAYS recommends creating a personalized experience for students in a scalable way. Out of the Gen Z-er’s surveyed, 41 percent said they learn about new menu items in the restaurant, and the remainder rely on social media networks (20 percent) and friends (19 percent). The best way to market these local offers are through community-based platforms that build brand affinities.

3. Embrace Spontaneity

Gen Z’s are spontaneous by nature. Only five percent of them said they plan their meals in advance while 48 percent said they try a new quick-service restaurant chain every month. Restaurants can take advantage of their willingness to try new things by using real-time tactics such as mobile push alerts for promotions of menu items and pricing geared towards Gen Z. Since they often communicate in images, it’s critical to dedicate “resources to leverage images and video snippets of your food across social and in promotions targeted at Gen Z.”

4. What Gen Z is Craving: It’s Not About the Meal Plan

Almost 48 percent of students don’t have a campus meal plan, and UNiDAYS says, “if they’re not coming to you, then they’re checking out your competition - which includes local and independent restaurants.” Students share that almost half of local eateries provide special offers for them and 78 percent are taking advantage.

Success does leave clues  is the global leader in grocerant niche business development.  We can help you identify, quantify and qualify additional food retail segment opportunities.  Has your company had a Grocerant ScoreCard completed a Grocerant Program Assessment, or new Grocerant niche product Ideation?  Want one?  Call 253-759-7869 Email:

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Denny’s Digital Dining will Drive Growth


Sometimes growth is overshadowed by survival and family dining chain Denny’s known for great breakfast has been hit hard, preliminary domestic same-store sales results for the COVID-19 pandemic year were down 31%. Pancakes just don’t travel well most customers must believe.

Denny’s has a corporate staff loaded with industry knowledge, ability, and a marketing skill-set that equals any chain restaurant in the U.S. today according to Steven Johnson, Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions®.

If you have talent, put it to work, and let it drive success, according to Johnson that exactly what Denny’s Corp. did.  Now Denny’s is testing two virtual brands that it plans to expand in 2021 and they “focus on burgers and melts,” something they know a lot about. 

Denny’s operators have been testing the two new virtual offerings, said John Miller, Denny’s CEO, in a statement, “Both concepts have shown promising results in testing and each is expected to be launched in the first half of fiscal 2021 in over half of Denny’s domestic restaurants,”

Looking a customer ahead, looking for growth, virtual brands will drive greater operational efficiencies, top line sales, and bottom-line profits according to Johnson. Denny’s deep marketing insights will provide valuable date points to drive incremental success.  It will pay dividends to keep an eye on Denny’s marketing messaging and their new virtual brands.

Battle for Share of Stomach

Miller went on to say, “With increasing distribution of vaccines, newly passed fiscal stimulus that should benefit our franchisees and the ongoing resolve of our operators, I am confident that Denny’s is well-positioned to continue navigating through the pandemic in an effective manner while preparing for future growth,”

Don’t do nothing, empower your team, look a customer ahead. Miller stated, “to be impressed with how resilient and steadfast our teams are in their commitment to serving our guests. Denny’s operators have maintained a dedicated focus on health and safety protocols while embracing innovative solutions such as curbside ordering, outdoor dining where permitted and testing two new virtual brands in an environment challenged by mandated restrictions.”

Where will your brand find customer relevance? If the customer moves are you willing to move with them?  Does your brand look more like yesterday, than today’s brand, or tomorrows? What consumer touchpoints can you edify moving forward? Here are two word we all learned in school.  Operational Efficiencies use your education, skill-set to drive top line sales and bottom-line profits.

Invite Foodservice Solutions® to complete a Grocerant Program Assessment, Grocerant ScoreCard, or for product positioning or placement assistance, or call our Grocerant Guru®.  Since 1991 Foodservice Solutions® of Tacoma, WA has been the global leader in the Grocerant niche. Contact: or 253-759-7869

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Food Hall’s or Virtual Restaurants


In a battle for share of stomach, the question most often asked of the team at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions® is should we open a retail unit in a food court or should we open a virtual restaurant? 

So, what’s the difference between a ‘food hall’ and a ‘virtual restaurant’ personal contact with the consumer according to Steven Johnson, Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions®.  The simple fact is consumer tired of food courts, most have remained closed and virtual restaurants are open delivering meals daily for less. Or at least that is what is happening right now.   

Regular readers of this blog know our Grocerant Guru® has documented many of the up-and downs of restaurants, caterers, and non-traditional food operators since 1991. The turnover at food halls is much more noticeable that of ‘virtual restaurants that are also De facto ‘food hall’s’.

Malls are reopening with limited hours, the food courts will reopen, and ‘normal’ hours will return with the team at Foodservice Solutions® believes better than normal sales as consumers will simply want to go out shopping and eating once again.

That said, it’s at the intersection of technology, food marketing messaging, and convenience that just might be the new comfort zone of today’s Gen Z, Millennials, and even Baby Boomers that will drive virtual restaurants success as national brands, local restaurants and celebrity chefs to a platform Johnson calls the grocerant niche dinner solution. After all it was Johnson who first explained that Eating-out with Eating-In had moved mainstream.

One thing is clear digital food marketing will drive the success of both ‘food hall’s and virtual restaurants according to Johnson.  Right now, the chains will have an advantage in both locations. Moving forward, new third-party marketing solutions will power the growth of virtual kitchens, local brands and grocerant niche Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat fresh prepared food.  Food courts will be around garnering customers that are out and about, when they are open.

Are you ready for some fresh ideations? Do your food marketing tactics look more like yesterday that tomorrow?  Visit for more information or contact: Remember success does leave clues and we just may the clue you need to propel your continued success.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Will Albertsons Focus on Grocerant Meals

Optimism returns to the foodservice industry as COVID-19 vaccinations pick-up steam all around the U.S. according to Steven Johnson, Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions®. Hotel and restaurant workers can’t wait for the full reopening of locations.  There are 29 restaurants for every grocery store in the U.S. and grocery store,. Grocery employees are eager for their workload to return to post pandemic levels so they can catch a break.

Back in the day my friend Ron Paul founder and President of Technomic coined the term, home meal replacement (HMR) to describe why the outstanding success of Boston Chicken / Boston Market and why they had driving sales and customer migration success.  At that time Technomic had industry leading insights, did the work, that laid the laid the foundation for what is now termed the Grocerant niche.

Back in the day (1993- 1999) food Industry research focused on HMR.  While industry leading conferences and seminars all touted the newest, hottest, HMR research insights to garner participants. Ron Paul’s team insights would receive high marks from Titians of the Grocery store sector, leaders in the convenience store sector, and accolades from chain restaurant C-suites.

There was one common undercurrent of discontent from every sector at the time.  That was it was too expensive to adapt too the recommendations. Given the CEO’s moto, do no harm, they did little, but talk loudly, and talk it up. However, few back in the day moved forward with any seriousness while slowly testing the 'HMR' sector. 

Today, grocery store rotisserie chicken has taken center stage in most grocery stores service deli’s as a grocerant niche Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat staple.  Our own Grocerant Guru® continues to be disappointed with the quality of the product, and price at most grocery stores but believes it is the foundation for continued growth within that sector for the grocery store sector. 

Johnson credits both Ron Paul (Technomic) and Scott Beck (CEO 1991 of Boston Chicken / Market) for encouraging him to focus on Grocerant niche meal solutions.  Johnson did, and now Foodservice Solutions® and Johnson are both recognized as the global leaders.  Beck understood the consumer touchpoints driving customer migration better than anyone back in the day or today according to Johnson.

Battle for Share of Stomach

Albertson’s like all grocery stores at the time entered home meal replacement niche halfheartedly and failed, the slipped back doing what they always did, accepting slotting fees, and placed items on the shelf. 

Then came the next wave of HMR as grocery stores learned some were succeeding, then they all rushed to reentered once again. This time the research industry evolved as well creating a new name for the niche convenient meal solutions  (CMS)  It was simply updated HRM data repacked to garner increased food industry excitement and incremental attendance at industry conferences and seminars according to Johnson.

2021 will be challenging for all grocery stores including Albertsons Cos. Now after 28 years Albertsons President and CEO Vivek Sankaran agrees that meals are an increasingly important driver of growth in grocery.   Sankaran stated, “We are going to get into the meals business. [And] I think you’ll see more of the restaurant business and the supermarket business converging,” Yes, once again they realize customer touchpoints matter. 

Outnumbered by 29 restaurants for every grocery store, full of with consumer tired of being forced to cook at home during the pandemic Albertsons own consumer insights must point to the grocerant niche.  That said, when the HMR info was replaced with CMS, convenient meal solutions, that was because rather than offering fresh prepared food, grocers wanted to sell CPG food.  They wanted to do what they always did.  So they made fresh prepared food into a packaged product. 

That did not work.  Researchers tailored studies to give grocers the what they wanted.  That’s how some research companies stay in business at the time.  They tailored the info too focus on CMS, simultaneously down playing the fresh prepared food focus. Guess what that did not help anyone consumer continued to migrate to fresh food fast driving growth in the restaurant sector. 

The team at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions® did not do that.  The question everyone has to ask today is will Albertson’s talk fresh but deliver a CPG product?  If you look at companies the ilk of Kroger or Hy-Vee the odds are the messaging will be there but the grocerant niche fresh prepared food in large part won’t be according to Johnson.

Regular readers of this blog know that Sally the Robot is a compact salad-making machine. About the size of a vending machine, Sally dispenses a full menu of salads, along with customizable options. Spurred by a need for safer self-serve experiences in vertical markets like grocery, Hayward, Calif.-based Chowbotics has also developed a mobile app for fast, contactless ordering through Sally edifying relevant consumer touchpoints. 

The team at Foodservice Solutions® wonders out loud if Sally the Robot will do a better job with delivering grocerant niche Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat fresh food than Albertson’s.  Will slotting fee’s once again derail the grocery sectors success selling meals? 

Invite Foodservice Solutions® to complete a Grocerant Program Assessment, Grocerant ScoreCard, or for product positioning or placement assistance, or call our Grocerant Guru®.  Since 1991 Foodservice Solutions® of Tacoma, WA has been the global leader in the Grocerant Niche. 

Monday, January 25, 2021

Muscle Maker Grill Now Offering Direct-to-Consumer Prepared Meal Plans

Direct to consumers sales is nothing new.  Look what Amazon did with that.  Now Muscle Maker Grill is extending its brand reach via direct to consumer with a focus on fresh prepared meals and meal plans. Steven Johnson, Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions® stated “it’s about time a chain restaurant fill that space in order to drive new electricity in the brand.”

At the intersection of meal item subscriptions and menu development there is now a solution for the non-cook that wants to eat better food that can be tailored to their specific desires. Yes, once again our Grocerant Guru® is talking convenient meal participationdifferentiation and individualization as a branded meal invitation.

Muscle Maker announced the launch of Now, customers can order ready-made “healthier for you” prepared meals shipped directly to their doorstep. So, the first location to launch this program is located in the Chelsea neighborhood of NYC allowing customers within 250 miles to order their ready-made meals. Additional sites are planned to come on-line throughout Q1 and Q2 increasing the company’s reach to consumers.

Direct t Consumers will allow Muscle Maker’s strategy to focus on non-traditional locations and ways to reach new consumers that can’t travel to a local store or don’t have one near them. The company believes the restaurant industry has changed and the team at Foodservice Solutions® has been saying that for years.

Being able to reach consumers through multiple touch points is critical to Muscle Maker’s strategy. Expanding grocerant niche Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat fresh prepared meal plans shipped directly to consumers doorsteps is a new way to get the company’s healthier products into the hands of consumers through contactless delivery and convenience.

This is a new evolving business line that expands the company’s reach to consumers and includes brick-and-mortar locations, non-traditional locations such as military bases and universities, home delivery through ghost kitchens and now meal plans shipped via UPS direct to consumers. This model can work out of all existing locations, including ghost kitchens and will be offered to sell through franchise locations.

Late last year the company announced a partnership with Happy Meal Prep and has been working relentlessly to perfect their temperature-controlled boxes to ensure safe delivery of MMG’s “healthier for you” food options. Partnerships matter when you are evolving your business model according to Johnson.

Muscle Maker customers can now order ready-made, prepared meals with options including Wraps, Bowls, Pastas and Salads. There are specific dietary categories as well including Keto and Gluten Free. After a minimum order of five meals, customers can order any quantity they desire to meet their meal prep needs. Customers can leverage customer relevant technology by opting in for texts or emails to keep up to date on the brand’s latest offerings.

Mike Roper, CEO of Muscle Maker Grill, stated, “ not only creates an additional revenue stream for the company but allows for us to reach broader audiences and new market segments. This is an expansion of our strategy to get healthier food options to consumers via non-traditional locations and methods. As an expression of gratitude to our loyal customer base, for a limited time, the company will offer 15 percent off all first time delivered meal plan orders. As of today, we will be able to serve the NY, NJ, and PA markets and are seeking to open more markets as we dive into 2021.”

This partnership with Happy Meal Prep will drive new electricity, top-of-mind brand awareness, top-line-sales, bottom-line-profits, all while edifying brand relevance according to Johnson.

Johnson stated “that in my minds-eye the new electricity must be very efficient for the supply chain and includes such things as; corporate partnerships, fresh foods, online ordering, delivery, self-driving cars, plant-based foods, music, streaming, food sampling, toy’s, podcast, movies, cereal, developing brands, grocerant positioning, fresh food messaging, autonomous delivery, cashier-less retail, plates, glasses, cash-less payments, digital hand-held marketing.

All food and beverage retailers to survive the next generation of retail must embrace the artificial intelligence revolution while simultaneously embracing fresh food and beverages that are portable, fresh, with differentiation that is familiar not different and Subway fits that bill according to Johnson.

Don’t over reach. Are you ready for some fresh ideations? Do your food marketing ideations look more like yesterday than tomorrow? Interested in learning how Foodservice Solutions® can edify your retail food brand while creating a platform for consumer convenient meal participationdifferentiation and individualization?  Email us at: or visit us on our social media sites by clicking the following links: FacebookLinkedIn, or Twitter