Sunday, February 28, 2021

Grocerant Niche Fresh Food Retailers Must Integrate Social Media


In a world where fresh food fast, needs too meet-up with consumers ever evolving pace of life, social media is an avenue of branded messaging success clue that simply can’t be over looked according to Steven Johnson, Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions®.

Recently Ariel Rubin, director of communications Kum & Go LC, shared 10 tips for fellow fresh food retailers looking to truly expand their social media conversation.  According to Johnson, Rubin’s 10 tips will help all fresh food retailers expand valued brand messaging in an inviting, interactive and participatory fashion.  Let’s look at his 10 tips:

1.       Use influencers to build long-term partnerships. Influencer collaboration can work if it is a well-matched influencer to your brand. You also must consider the platform being used.

2.       Consider celebrity engagement, especially celebrities near your brand. “We send our swag to famous people strategically — those who we like and who like us. We send T-shirts; they tweet about it or use our name in a podcast. They are a friend of the brand. It’s all free and it builds goodwill.”

3.       Make the merch work. Kum & Go’s philosophy is “make cool merch, win cool customers.” Giveaways inspire social media conversations and build loyalty. Kum & Go recently gave away a needlepoint with the inscription: “Tis better to have kum and gone than never to kum and go at all.”

4.       Test new and emerging platforms like TikTok. To capture and connect with 16- to 22 year-olds, Kum & Go hired a 19-year-old Gen Z specialist to manage platforms like TikTok.

5.       Tweet to the next level. Kum & Go uses humor and storytelling on Twitter to win over both new associates and new customers.

6.       Go offline. It’s not all about online conversations. Kum & Go brings the same “digital hype and energy” to its store openings, with 100 fanny packs typically given out by 7 a.m. Kids camp out for the openings.

7.       Stand for something. “We use our social platform and privilege to amplify marginalized voices, be loud allies, and support causes that matter to us,” said Rubin. “When we have something important to say, we find a fun way to say it. People really engage with this stuff.” Recently, Kum & Go posted: “we don’t mind if you want to laugh at our name. we get it. kum. but one thing we won’t tolerate on our platform is rape apologist language. any slut-shaming, sexism, or misogyny in the comments is going to get you blocked. love, kum & go.”

8.       Engage in a deeper way. Kum & Go believes that if you help people get through something important to them, they will become a fan for life. And so, the retailer believes in deepening its relationship with its audience. According to Rubin, “not only are we communicating with our audience, we are also listening, incorporating their ideas into fun campaigns and giveaways.”

9.       Promote chainwide and local happenings. Kum & Go utilizes social media to promote its business as it evolves offerings and operations, such as curbside delivery or gas-pumping service.

10.   Make mistakes. This is the only way you’re going to find out what’s working and what isn’t. Try things. They won’t always work, but this is how you find your voice and ultimately build your audience. “You have to be willing to screw up. Trust your social media people. Let them make mistakes. The failures are just as informative as the wins — maybe even more so.”

Looking for success clues of your own? Foodservice Solutions® specializes in outsourced food marketing and business development ideations. We can help you identify, quantify and qualify additional food retail segment opportunities, technology, or a new menu product segment.  Foodservice Solutions® of Tacoma WA is the global leader in the Grocerant niche visit us on our social media sites by clicking one of the following links: Facebook,  LinkedIn, or Twitter

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Dunkin Expanding the ‘halo’ of Better-for-You


Consumer like fresh fast food, they like drive thru’s, and they like Inspire Brands restaurant retail outlets for all of the right reasons including craveability, creativity, consistency according to Steven Johnson, Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions®.

Back in the day the Grocerant Guru® introduced regular readers of this blog about a new avenue of fresh food distribution that was about to take off.  That company was, Farmer’s Fridge.  Now that fresh food vending company, is testing some of its salads, bowls and breakfast items at select Dunkin’ locations elevating choice for Dunkin’s retail customers while extending the ‘halo’ of better-for you according to Johnson.

Farmer’s Fridge in its first test pilot restaurant program is taking place at six Dunkin’ stores at which a limited selection of items are on offer behind the counter. Eventually, they will be available in grab-and-go cases rather than the traditional Farmer’s Fridge stand-alone vending fridges.

Meghan Hurley, head of marketing for Farmer’s Fridge stated, “Dunkin’ was exploring new, healthy food options focused on plant-forward ingredients,”... “Our CEO was introduced to the Dunkin’ folks in 2020 and the idea was launched.”

Regular readers of this blog know that, Farmer’s Fridge has traditionally set up its vending operations in airports, college campuses, office buildings, hospitals and similar venues. There are now about 350 installations, but this is the first venture with a QSR.

So, Dunkin’ is offering two Farmer’s Fridge salads and two bowls, including a harvest salad, Greek salad, pesto pasta and a burrito bowl—the last a combo of black beans, a brown rice-quinoa blend, fire-roasted corn, roasted fajita veggies and guacamole. Also on the menu are chia pudding, apple-cinnamon oats and a yogurt parfait. None of these were developed specifically for Dunkin; these items were already in the fridges, said Hurley.

Fresh and sustainable in its vending operations, all the food is packed into recyclable glass jars. Dunkin’ customers can either recycle these at home or bring the jars back to the store where the purchase was made.

In a press release an Inspire Brands spokesperson stated “Dunkin’ is committed to delivering a wide variety of delicious, convenient menu choices to help keep our guests running all day long, including options that make it easier to eat on-the-go," "We are currently testing Farmer’s Fridge prepackaged salads, grain bowls and breakfast items inside a total of six restaurants in the Chicago and New Jersey markets. The test is designed to gather valuable feedback from consumers, franchisees and their employees to help inform future decisions.” Farmers Fridge in the minds-eye of our grocerant guru® has developed top-of-mind awareness for better for you fresh food within the vending sector and sees no reason they can’t be a perfect fit at Dunkin outlets.

Like all of us, with many of its fridges in locations that immediately shut down at the start of the pandemic, Farmer’s Fridge had to quickly transform its business model. “We lost 70% to 80% of our business that first week, but by the end of March, we built an e-commerce site on Shopify and launched self-delivery in some markets,” said Hurley. “People still wanted healthy food fast, so we were serving the same occasion as we did at the office.”

The company also relocated some of its fridges in hospitals and universities to make them more accessible to frontline workers and quarantining students. Farmer’s Fridge also debuted a Chef Collab series, using well-known restaurant chefs to create recipes for the fridges and home delivery. “When restaurants shut down, we asked the chefs what they would make at home, and they developed dishes for us,” said Hurley.

The lineup includes Andrew Kim, Paul Kahan, Missy Robbins and Stephanie Izard. Girl and the Goat’s Izard created a tofu bowl. It worked.  Almost a year later, Farmer’s Fridge business is back to pre-pandemic levels, said Hurley, but sales are going through different channels. With about half the fridges currently inactive, the company is currently doing more wholesale, e-commerce and delivery.

Hurley continued, “In 2021, “we want to take a step back and build out these channels,” ... “The menu team also wants to focus on product development and develop recipes based on trends and customers’ needs. The Dunkin’ fridges are just in test right now, but we hope to partner with other restaurants in the future.” How are you expanding the increasingly valued customer touchpoint of ‘better-for-you?

Are you looking for a new partnership to drive sales? 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 have the clue you need to propel your continued success.

Friday, February 26, 2021

Is Coolgreens Meal Subscription Service ‘Better-for-You’?


At the intersection of proactive franchisee’s, consumer trends, virtual kitchens can Coolgreens drive top-line growth and bottom-line profits while expanding the ‘halo’ of better for you fresh food with a subscription service? The team at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions® reached out and asked their Grocerant Guru®, Steven Johnson and believes it will require some testing, trial, and tasking by consumers before mass adoption of the Menu. Price, and Service.

Coolgreens business model is targeting consumers looking for fresh fast food that is better for you. They say food that fuels vibrant communities with “Food that Feeds Your Life.” Coolgreens recently opened a new ghost kitchen with its first-ever subscription service delivering fresh food fast. Consumers are dynamic not static and brands must be as well.

Customers can now order “The Greens” – signature salads – or “It’s A Wrap” – signature wraps – through on a weekly basis. The Orlando community is the first to enjoy Coolgreens’ fresh, made-to-order creations delivered in this new way. After a few months of testing the service in Orlando, they plan to expand to additional Southeast markets.

Coolgreens CEO Robert Lee stated, “Our mission of providing communities with nutritious, fresh food has always been clear, and this is another opportunity for us to fulfill it,” … “In 2020, we saw an increase of 150% in online orders. People are placing larger orders and using us to play a key role in their family’s meal preparation for the week.

Back to the backbone of growth for most restaurant companies’ franchisee. Coolgreens partnered with one of our franchise owners, Humza Idrees, in launching a subscription service. With no extra prep required, we’re catering to the on-the-go consumer who truly is trying to live a healthy lifestyle. Since Humza just opened our first ghost kitchen in Orlando, this is the perfect place for us to get guest feedback on this additional layer of convenience.”

So, for about $40 per week, the consumer will get to choose four salads or wraps for delivery or shipping anywhere in Florida. Coolgreens will safely deliver fresh, delicious healthy meals directly to guests’ doorsteps. Delivery takes place one day after the food is ordered, and the meals will last for up to five days. Each salad or wrap can be customized to meet specific dietary or lifestyle preferences, and guests can even order a bundle called “The Weekender” that feeds six to eight people for $75.

Idrees came up with the subscription service idea when he and his wife were focusing on leading a healthy lifestyle. Idrees stated, “When Fariha and I committed to living healthier, we soon found that meal preparation is among the hardest parts”

Indrees continued, “The one to two hours each day spent on cooking food at home started to feel like a mundane chore, so we wanted to alleviate this task for others wanting to pursue a healthy diet. If you order So, get this for the Coolgreens’ salad subscription service, all you have to do is pour on our house-made dressing, shake the package and you’re good to go.  How fresh and fast is you brand? Are you growing top-line sales and bottom-line profits?

Success does leave clues. One clue that time and time again continues to resurface is “the consumer is dynamic not static”.  Regular readers of this blog know that is the common refrain of Steven Johnson, Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions®.  Our Grocerant Guru® can help your company edify your brand with relevance.  Call 253-759-7869 for more information. 

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Is High End Convenience Store Foxtrot the Next Big Thing


You want what when? You name it, Foxtrot the Chicago based high end retailer that focuses on delivery, just raised another $42 Million dollars, to give convenience store customers in ‘up-scale’ neighborhoods just what they want and when according to Steven Johnson, Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions®.

Foxtrot, currently operates just eight stores in Chicago and Dallas, expects to add as many as nine stores in those cities by the end of 2021, and expand into new markets including select Washington, D.C. neighborhoods. So, we ask is Foxtrot the next big thing?

Consumers don’t care if big name investors the ilk of celebrity chef and restaurateur David Chang, sweetgreen co-founder and CCO Nicolas Jammet and former CEO of Whole Foods Walter Robb invested. 

Consumers do care about 60-minute delivery, including wine, Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat fresh prepared food, and meal components that can be bundled into the perfect mix & matched meal for one, two, or three.

Consumers do care about Foxtrot’s line of private label packaged goods and gift offerings, that can be delivered within an hour. They also care about cashierless instore checkout, fast service, never out of stock staples, and good prices.  Even high end customers want to maintain the price, value, service equilibrium.

CEO and Co-founder Mike LaVitola stated “With this new round of funding and an incredibly strong executive team now fully in place, we see 2021 as a year of tremendous growth for Foxtrot,” … “We have built a business that marries the local approach of a corner store with the convenience of e-commerce. We know how our stores operate best and in which markets, which is where we’ll be going deep with our expansion efforts next. We also look forward to showcasing to customers coast-to-coast what Foxtrot is all about as we continue to roll out shipping nationwide.” 

Here is a little background; “Foxtrot combines an upscale corner store and café with app-based purchasing that makes its entire inventory available for delivery in under an hour. Foxtrot derives its revenue equally between online sales and in-store purchases. The brand’s delivery model has been central to its customer service strategy since inception, making Foxtrot uniquely positioned for strength during the pandemic. In 2020, company sales increased over 100% fueled by consistent year-over-year growth across channels. Of that growth, according to the company, 55% derives from retail, largely from same-stores sales, and over 200% from e-commerce, driven by 100% increase in app downloads.”

Yes, Foxtrot stores offer a full-service café, sommelier-curated wine shop, and unique gift bundles for every occasion. In addition to grocery staples, Foxtrot stores offer a full-service café, sommelier-curated wine shop, and unique gift bundles for every occasion via on-demand delivery and in its tech-enabled brick and mortar stores. Select gift bundles are also currently available in Foxtrot’s Ship Shop, which will continue to add offerings as it expands its nationwide shipping capabilities. How much room is there for high-end convenience meals, gifts, and snacks?  We think enough to get to 200+ units.  Then what? What do you think?

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

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

The Frozen Food Court Pays Dividends

Restaurants have been stocking the Frozen Food Court in grocery store aisle longer than our Grocerant Guru® has been helping them ‘look a customer ahead’. That said today the frozen food court continues to be a valued branding avenue of distribution that restaurants should not overlook, according to Steven Johnson, Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions®.

This should not be news to anyone, but the numbers are impressive just the same.  In a new report they found that frozen foods were among the fastest-growing categories during pandemic, with clear signs that Americans’ fondness for frozen food will continue to grow even after the pandemic. The simple fast is that the 'Frozen Food Court' does not diminish stores sales, it elevates brand awareness. 

Consumers were searching for cost-efficient items with a longer shelf life during the pandemic, and they found what they were looking for in the frozen food aisle. So, in 2020, frozen food sales grew in both dollars (up 21%) and units (up 13.3%), with nearly all types of frozen foods seeing double-digit sales increases, according to the "Power of Frozen 2021" report from the American Frozen Food Institute (AFFI) and FMI — the Food Industry Association.

Alison Bodor, president and CEO of Arlington, Virginia-based AFFI stated, “Frozen foods are a pandemic powerhouse, ringing in $65.1 billion in retail sales in 2020, a 21% increase compared to a year ago,”.

This sales surge was helped by shoppers turning to e-commerce at a record rate, as online frozen food dollar sales increased 75%. Over the past year, 42% of households that buy frozen foods have bought frozen foods online, up from 23% in 2018. Note: consumers learn and they will not forget that saving money matters as much as saving times.

Consider when the consumer asks What’s for dinner?  Is it any wonder that frozen dinners/entrees, meat, poultry and seafood proved to be the biggest online sellers? In fact, when asked if they wanted to cook dinner from scratch or assemble dinner from fresh meal components 90.4 % of Gen Z chose assemble from Fresh Prepared Meal Components and Millennials 82.7% chose meal components.

The grocerant niche halo of ‘better-for-you’ continues to pay a leading role. The report continued saying “The health-and-wellness craze has also infiltrated the frozen food aisle. Frozen food consumers are most likely to be interested in “real” ingredients, followed by fresh frozen and the absence of artificial colors.…

The interest in fresh frozen also aligns with another key finding from the "Power of Frozen 2021" report. To most frozen food consumers (72%), it’s not frozen or fresh — it’s frozen and fresh. “Mixing fresh and frozen in the same meal is a tell-tale trait of our core frozen food consumers,”. Yes, the focus of the consumer in the frozen food court sounds a lot like grocerant niche messaging, and it should for good reason.

Doug Baker, VP of industry relations at Arlington-based FMI stated, “Shoppers are nearly a year into the COVID-19 pandemic and are having more family meals at home than ever before,"…  "They are looking for meal plans, culinary creativity, and convenient, cost-effective solutions. The frozen foods category offers these benefits to shoppers, and that’s why we see all areas — from meal ingredients to meal solutions — reaching new audiences and increasing purchases.”

The top three frozen food categories with the largest percentage of dollar growth in 2020, according to Chicago-based IRI, are:

·         Seafood (up 35.3%)

·         Poultry (up 34.7%)

·         Appetizers (up 28.9%)

Bodor, sounding more like our won Grocerant Guru®, stated, “It’s not just about what’s for dinner, especially for our core frozen food consumers," . "All meal occasions — dinner, lunch, snacks and breakfast — are contributing to an increase in frozen food purchases.”

Are you looking for a new partnership to drive top-line sales and bottom-line profits? Foodservice Solutions® team has deep connections within the grocerant niche for fresh food manufacturing, fresh frozen manufacturing, packaging, and new points of distribution.

Invite Foodservice Solutions® to complete a 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

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Beef O’Brady’s Two Steps Forward with a View


The trend is your friend, consider that pre-pandemic shut down, Beef ‘O’Brady’s off-premise business was a little less than average for the restaurant sector.  Then when the shutdown arrived like everyone else it surged from about 10% of sales to a peak of 80% soon after according to Steven Johnson, Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions®.

Beef ‘O’Brady’s COO, Scott SirLouis, stated, “We had to pivot really fast to keep our corporate stores and franchisees going,”…  “Everybody really came together and got creative, setting up tents in the parking lots with banners directing customers to curbside pickup.”

The race to get up to speed with not easy or pretty according to Johnson, that’s not a bad thing it’s just life.  Beef ‘O’Brady’s after tapping all of its stock of white foam clamshells, they eventually decided to upgrading to black plastic clamshells with clear tops.

It’s not just that easy, there was no consistency in the supply, said SirLouis, and even though the makeshift carryout setup was doing the job, “we realized if we were to keep our off-premise momentum, we had to get better at all aspects.”

Thus, SirLouis got together with his teams to figure out a better way to approach forced change while looking a customer ahead. That’s when “Beef 's on Demand” was born. It’s a separate brand with its own logo, packaging and scaled-back menu.  More sandwiches are on offer, along with other foods that travel well. Simple, fresh, fast giving the meeting the need-set and mind-set of today’s consumer.

SirLouis continued, “We realized that 74% of everything we sell is fried or comes with fried sides, and the plastic clamshells were ill-suited for these foods. So, he and his team brought in packaging from many of their competitors, including Applebee’s, Buffalo Wild Wings, Outback and Chili’s. “One day, we had a huge table filled with takeout french fries from all these chains,” he said.

Beef ‘O’Brady’s decided to go with a cardboard clamshell with no inner coating—it retained the heat well and didn’t sweat, keeping the fries crisp, said SirLouis. It’s a stock container from an existing packaging manufacturer that the chain brands with the “Beef's on Demand” logo.

“Since we’re not a large company, we don’t have the volume to work with a supplier to create a custom package,” he added. Not to worry, Beef ‘O’ Brady’s is keeping a smaller supply of the plastic clamshells for items such as wings and entrees, the new cardboard containers are actually less expensive. “It comes to about a $4,000 savings in packaging per location,” said SirLouis. 

The customer is dynamic, it was time that Beef ‘O’ Brady’s be dynamic as well. “The chain also purchased plastic portion cups for sauces, since the restaurants are now packing the sauce separately instead of putting it on the items. The chain is currently working with a bag manufacturer to source a plastic or paper bag that can hold the new packaging. The new cardboard clamshells were tearing the old bags in transit, SirLouis stated.

Looking a customer ahead Beef's on Demand will continue as both a curbside and third-party delivery program. “We tried self-delivery in the beginning, but eventually backed off,” SirLouis said. “From a cash flow perspective, we need more volume to do self-delivery.”  

With, off-premise business is holding steady at about 25%, the question becomes can we now hold on to that off-premise business? Johnson thinks that most restaurants can maintain those takeout sales as U.S. consumers, want the ability to make contactless payment is a priority.

In fact, 61% of consumers saying they now prefer to make purchases from businesses that accept contactless payments.  As of November 2020, 45% of Americans prefer to view the menu, order, and pay with their phone rather than interact with waitstaff technology matters and consumer touchpoint still rule the day according to Johnson.

Are you looking for a new partnership to drive sales? 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 have the clue you need to propel your continued success.