Monday, February 28, 2022

Whole Foods Just Walk Out Means More Will Walk In


Hard to believe by technology is coming to Washington DC, this time it is coming to a Whole Foods store in Glover Park via Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology.   This will be the first Whole Foods to use the Just Walk Out technology that Amazon has developed to reduce labor cost, reduce the time a consumer is forced to spend in the store, and all in all make customers happy.

According to Steven Johnson, Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions®, stated, “Amazon is growing confident in its Just Walk Out technology and consumers like it. Operating at the intersection of technology, in store tactile preferences, consumers empowered choice, and saving time Amazon has hit a cord with consumer relevance.”

Recently Amazon Fresh opened its 11th grocery store in Southern California, the new Amazon Fresh store is approximately 35,000-square-foot which just happens to be very close to the same size as the Whole Foods store in Glover Park section of Washington DC.

If for some unknown reason you have not been following our blog about Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology, let’s review. So, customers who opt for Just Walk Out shopping can enter the store in three ways:

They can scan the QR code in their Amazon app, use Amazon One to scan their palm to enter, or insert a credit or debit card linked to their Amazon account. Each option will open the Just Walk Out gates. Once inside the store, customers can shop as normal. Anything they take off the shelf is automatically added to their virtual cart, and anything they put back on the shelf comes out of their virtual cart. At the end of their trip, customers shopping with the Just Walk Out experience simply scan or insert their entry method again to exit.

Now it is getting even smarter and better, as Amazon Fresh accepts cash, SNAP EBT, credit or debit card, or Amazon One. Customers using Just Walk Out technology can use the In-Store QR code in the Amazon app, Amazon One, or a credit or debit card linked to their Amazon account to shop.

Amazon has not been sitting by making mistakes, they have been working hard to improve the experience every day since they opened the first Amazon Go Store.  While everyone knows data is king at Amazon, the focus of the Just Walk Out technology is customer touchpoints.  Not waiting in line to check out, combined with fresh food fast with full flavor for less it simply put a home run.

In a Battle for Share of Stomach

Are You

Looking A Customer Ahead

If you are a little old fashion or a pain in the neck customer trying to test the technology and the expierence I just want you to know that customers may use the paper coupon at the Just Walk Out exit or at the traditional checkout.

Amazon Fresh, Amazon Go, and Whole Foods all have a wide assortment of national brands and high-quality produce, meat and seafood, as well as a range of prepared foods made fresh in store every day — from fresh-baked bread and made-to-order pizzas to rotisserie chickens and hot sandwiches. These stores offers 365 by Whole Foods Market organics, plus local brands like Pizza Port Brewing, CoolHaus Ice Cream, and Rockenwagner Bakery; regional favorites like Duke’s Mayo and Ellenos Yogurt; and Amazon exclusive brands like Aplenty, Fresh and Cursive.

Technology is relevant to digital natives the ilk of Gen Z and Millennials but saving time, is relevant to everyone. Empowering choice, with fresh food fast is the dream of every grocerant niche retailer.

For international corporate presentations, regional chain presentations, educational forums, or keynotes contact: Steven Johnson Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions.  His extensive experience as a multi-unit restaurant operator, consultant, brand / product positioning expert, and public speaking will leave success clues for all. For more information visit, FoodserviceSolutions.US or call 1-253-759-7869

Sunday, February 27, 2022

Can Virtual Restaurants Save Legacy Chain Restaurants?


If you are running a legacy chain restaurant today you need to ask yourself, how can I add customer relevance to a brand that has been around longer than most Millennials have been alive. According to Steven Johnson, Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions® virtual restaurants just might be the next big thing and a legacy chain restaurants savior.

Ok, remember that last October, Cracker Barrel opened a virtual restaurant brand and now it is getting ready to double its investment in its virtual brand The Pancake Kitchen by expanding to 200 locations by the end of 2022, roughly doubling the count from the start of the year.  Guess what?  It is proving the lift that Cracker Barrel needed while drawing in new customers during new dayparts.

The Pancake Kitchen is a delivery-only concept cooked in Cracker Barrel kitchens is meant to make eating breakfast all day easier for guests of the family-dining chain.

Matthew Schaefer, Cracker Barrel’s senior director of strategy and innovation, stated, “The expansion of The Pancake Kitchen by Cracker Barrel is part of our plan to make it as easy and convenient as possible for guests to enjoy one of our most popular homestyle breakfast favorites — whether they want pancakes at breakfast, lunch or dinner time!” ... “As the trend in online ordering and partnership with on-demand delivery platforms continues, we are excited to evolve our strategy and offerings to ensure our guests are able to satisfy their cravings for ‘pancakes all flippin’ day.’”

So, the menu consists of classic Buttermilk Pancakes with flavors like Pecan, Blueberry, Confetti (fruity cereal) and Chocolate Chip, with the option to add famous Cracker Barrel sides like Loaded Hashbrown Casserole or Fried Apples.

CEO Sandy Cochran, discussed The Pancake Kitchen, saying, “we remain confident that we can retain at least 60% of the growth in off-premises sales that we experienced during the pandemic.” 60% is a very good number.

Thus, The Pancake Kitchen expansion includes multiple phases. The brand is in 150 locations as of this week, with 50 of those being new, and plans to expand to 200 locations throughout this year. But that’s not all, Cracker Barrel also has a virtual brand called Chicken ‘n Biscuits, which is currently in around 500 of its 660 brick-and-mortar locations, and ghost kitchen outposts that opened in October.

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

Saturday, February 26, 2022

Subway is no Longer Stagnant It’s Back on Track

Success does leave clues and at times chain restaurants need to refocus, renew, and rewrite its brand message to edify relevance with consumers according to Steven Johnson, Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions®. 

Johnson stated, “Under pressure from franchisee Subway raised prices, shifted it brand messaging, and went adrift with once loyal customers.  Then in an effort to reclaim some loyal customers they returned to brand messaging with the ‘halo’ of better for you.” Well guess what it worked.

Last week Subway stated that its sales performance improved steadily throughout 2021, sending its average unit volumes to their highest level since 2014. That is a big step forward.

While Subway did not provide the exact number of its average unit sales.  Technomic went to work and calculated that Subway’s “average unit volumes in 2014 were $446,000. They would fall to $425,000 the next year. That suggests the 2021 figure was somewhere in between.”

Technomic continued saying “For the system, same-store sales were flat for the full year 2021. But for the top 75% of its locations, about 16,000 locations in all, same-store sales were up 7.5% over 2019 levels.”

Subway did say that sales improved throughout the year for that group. By December, same-store sales were up 8.7% on a two-year basis. Subway also said that same-store sales for the entire system were positive the last three quarters of the year.

In a Battle for Share of Stomach

You Can Win

Subway’s CEO John Chidsey, stated, that the results “indicate we have the right team and strategy to bring our multi-year transformation journey to life,”.

But the data also suggests that about 5,000 locations are still well under what they were before the pandemic. Many are believed to be in urban areas, business districts and in retail shops such as Walmart.

Technomic suggest that much of that recent improvement in sales at Subway can be chalked up to store closures. The brand has closed about 4,900 locations since 2017. That includes about 1,000 locations in 2021, based on an unofficial count of its online store directory.

So, let us be clear for Subway, the 2021 sales results represent the first real green shoots in what has been a long and difficult decade for the brand. The chain has seen thousands of closures since that 2012 peak. It also lost its founder, its spokesman and went through multiple changes in management and executives.

We must note that, Chidsey took over the brand in 2019 as part of the latest management overhaul. The brand last year made a massive change to its menu, upgrading its bread and other ingredients, in what it called the “Eat Fresh Refresh.” Getting back to the basic messaging of the brand.

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.  

Friday, February 25, 2022

Kroger from Frozen Food Court to Fresh Food Court Will it Work


Legacy grocery stores have been losing customers for over 50 years.  In fact, for just the past 15 years there are 50% fewer legacy grocery stores then there were 15 years ago.  So, what’s next?  Steven Johnson, Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions®, stated, It is not going to be the legacy service deli, it’s not going to be a restaurant in the grocery store, or a branded coffee shop that is going to save legacy grocery stores it is going to be the further evolution of the grocerant niche.

To that end Kroger is experimenting with a new format that complements the “Frozen Food Court” found in the frozen food aisle in most legacy grocery stores. So, Kroger has partnered with Kitchen United MIX too place a ‘ghost kitchen’ inside a Kroger supermarket in Houston, marking its second location with restaurant hub operator Kitchen United.

What that means is Kitchen United is cooking and serving branded restaurant meals for customers to take home from the grocery store.   Now, the Kroger store at 1035 N. Shepherd Dr. in Houston, has the new kitchen center that enables customers to place orders online or through a mobile device or an in-person ordering kiosk using Kitchen United’s MIX platform and then pick up their meals on-site or have them delivered. Restaurant staff prepare the orders, with delivery service fees set by third-party providers. How well do you think that will work when they charge more?

At Kroger, currently, customers can choose from 15 branded eateries, including local and national restaurant brands such as Burns Original BBQ, The Rustic, Fuddruckers, Buca di Beppo, Dog Haus, Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop, MrBeast Burger, Snowfox, Bad-Ass Breakfast Burritos, Wing Zone, The Impossible Shop, Joe Leo, Bad Mutha Clucka, Plant B and Jailbird. This just might be the best part, shoppers also can mix orders from multiple restaurants and have their purchases grouped on one receipt. The location operates Sunday to Thursday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and on Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Laura Gump, president of Kroger’s Houston division, stated, “We are thrilled and proud to be the first Kroger location in Texas to launch this exciting and innovative partnership. “‘What’s for Dinner?’ is a question that’s always on the minds of our customers, and being able to offer a fresh and tasty selection, paired with friendly service, is the experience we strive to provide each day. This partnership emphasizes how we continue to advance our ‘Fresh for Everyone’ strategy.”

So, the Kitchen United Mix in the Kroger Houston store, situated in the city’s The Heights neighborhood, follows the early January opening of the companies’ first restaurant kitchen inside a Ralphs supermarket in Westwood, Calif. Kroger and Pasadena, Calif.-based Kitchen United announced their national partnership last August.

Kitchen United CEO Michael Montagano, stated, “Kitchen United MIX is proud to introduce our multi-restaurant ordering platform to more shoppers through our newest grocery installation with Kroger,” ... “We recently launched our first ‘store within a store’ at a Ralphs in Los Angeles, and it’s been incredibly popular. Kitchen United MIX is revolutionizing the way people order takeout, and we’re thrilled to provide this one-of-a-kind experience to Kroger shoppers in The Heights neighborhood of Houston. By partnering with Kroger, we now offer Houstonians a variety of delicious meals for delivery as well as for pick up as they shop.”

The Kitchen United partnership marks the second on-site ghost kitchen collaboration that Cincinnati-based Kroger has announced since the fall of 2020. That October, the grocer unveiled plans to launch two ghost kitchens with ClusterTruck inside stores in metropolitan Indianapolis and outside Columbus, Ohio, for on-demand delivery of freshly prepared meals. The rollout followed a pilot of a meal service — dubbed Kroger Delivery Kitchen Powered by ClusterTruck — from off-site “scratch kitchens” in late 2019.

Dan De La Rosa, group vice president of fresh merchandising for Kroger, stated, “Our customers know they can count on Kroger as a destination for the freshest meal solutions,” … “The Kitchen United collaboration provides another simple, on-demand meal option within our stores. It is one more example of how Kroger is fulfilling our commitment to anything, anywhere, anytime.

Think about it, customer have been buying branded meals form the ‘Frozen Food Court’ for over 20 years, if done right this partnership could provide Kroger an incremental customer boost that is long overdue.

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 leader within the Grocerant niche Worldwide.

Kitchen United MIX 

Thursday, February 24, 2022

Great Harvest Bakery Cafés Classic Growth Model


Fresh baked bread is one of the best things ever according to Steven Johnson, Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions®.  When you look at a traditional bakery concept the ilk of Great Harvest Bakery Café and their legacy business model for growth “Hub & Spoke” you can understand how investors and consumers can rejoice. 

In case you did not know, Great Harvest Bakery Café has reported same store sales for Q4 of 2021, they were up 14.9 percent compared to 2019.  Regular readers of this blog know that 2019 was the last “normal” year for comparison. When you look for year over year or in this case like to like sales comparison to big box competitors and other quick-service brands in the space, Great Harvest markets for that same quarter, reported cafe sales are up 17.7 percent vs 2019. That’s good.

Eric Keshin, president and CMO of Great Harvest Bread Company, stated, “Being a high-growth concept, we chose to perfect our expansion model, which aligns with the direction of the quick-service, casual dining environment that must provide investors and entrepreneurs with state-of-the-art strategies to address real estate challenges and production costs, all while serving ‘main street’ and surrounding communities efficiently,”. “We have identified 50 markets positioned for this multi-unit expansion program.”

Readers of this blog know that the Hub & Spoke system is designed in today’s world for the multi-unit operator in order to reduce cost through smaller footprint cafe locations to maximize a Hub’s production capabilities.

The Hubs are full bakery cafes with seating for 40-45 people and have all the handmade bread production on-site. Spokes operate as cafes; they have fresh bread supplied by the Hub daily and should be located within 40 minutes of a Hub. Their menu is the same as their Hub; they bake items on-site like cookies, biscuits, scones, etc., to maintain the aroma of a bakery.

So, the footprint of a Spoke should be around seventy percent (70%) of a Hub’s footprint. This significantly reduces upfront development costs as well as operating costs.

Do you want to get in on the action?  If so, the Hub & Spoke model can be purchased from existing legacy locations with active revenue stream to then expand around them, partnership with single-operators to further expand the market presence and enter brand new markets with Hub & Spoke units. Opportunities exist in the following markets: Atlanta, Chicago, Birmingham, Greenville, and Spokane and within the following states: California, Florida, Texas and Washington D.C.

Here is an example, the owners of Southlake, Texas took over an existing location and quickly added two additional spokes around the legacy store. In Elkins, WV, the owner introduced the company into the newer market first, then added the second location within his second year.

The made-from scratch bread making concept was deemed essential as bakery cafes around the U.S. continued to feed communities through food shortages and provided donated bread to local food banks.

Keshin went on to say, “We held on and grew through the pandemic as franchisees adapted to meet the needs of the consumer. From popular annual LTO’s, superior breakfast sandwiches to on-the-go convenience, our wide variety of sandwiches and specialty sweet items naturally set the company apart from big box QSR competitors,”. “Demand for authentic bread is evident.” Is your business model made for today? Yesterday? Or tomorrow?

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 at:

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Foodja convenient meal participation, differentiation and individualization


Empowering customer choice within the restaurant space is the differentiator preferred by consumers when deciding that age old question; What’s for Dinner.  It is at the intersection of consumer touchpoints and branded personalization that we find Foodja.

Steven Johnson, Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions® believes “Foodja will prove a cost-effective way for companies to edify their employees company loyalty while reducing cost. It’s a good way to help reduce employee turnover.”

In case you did not know, Foodja, is a leading workplace restaurant delivery platform.  They recently launched their nationally focused, professional meal service, the Foodja Cafe, to provide a reliable and cost-effective workplace benefit to companies with 50 to 20,000 employees. 

Steve Sprinkle, founder and CEO of Foodja, stated, "Our Cafe product launch was driven by the transition to accommodate individuals in the pandemic environment as employees return to the office”. "Employees are looking to order their own personalized.  Individually packaged meals from local restaurants. Employers are looking to create a great workplace experience to welcome employees back to the office. Our Cafe product provides both.” 

So, Foodja Cafe allows individual employees to order their own meal from a list of rotating, local restaurants with expertly curated options to ensure that employees never experience “menu boredom” again.

In a Battle for Share of Stomach

You Can Win

Consider that these meals are available for all meal periods including breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinner, seven days a week, employees receive a text notification when their meal has arrived so they can pick up their individually packaged and labeled meal from the designated Foodja kiosk located inside or outside of their office. By simplifying office meal delivery and encouraging coworkers to engage with one another during breaks, the contactless meal delivery program promotes productivity while helping to build a fun and safe workplace culture where employees can have a group dining experience without having to leave the office.

Foodja Cafe has proven beneficial in the post-Covid workplace as it allows for only one delivery person for each 15 to 20 meals as opposed to one delivery person per meal, reducing foot traffic and disruptions from drivers coming into the workplace. Helping to ease the transition of remote working to in-office, Cafe promotes company growth by creating an experience that encourages employees to come back to work. Cafe allows employers to use the service as a benefit with the option to sponsor an entire meal for employees, or just pay a portion of the cost so it works with any budget. Property managers even use Foodja Cafe as a building amenity to provide added value for tenants.

When you consider that Foodja Cafe also helps local restaurants introduce their food to new customers. Rather than converting the restaurant's existing in-store customers to delivery customers, as is common with other meal delivery platforms, Foodja Cafe aims to drive in-store traffic by exposing new customers to participating restaurants and encouraging them to visit in-store in their free time with bounce back offers.

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.

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Checkers & Rally’s Small Footprint, Strong Leadership, Faster Drive-Thru’s


Fresher food and faster service in a smaller footprint are but a couple of the advantages Checkers & Rally’s has over other legacy fast-food restaurants according to Steven Johnson, Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions®.

Now Checkers Drive-In Restaurant wants to make its iconic drive-thru’s, just a little faster.  To do that they have tapped Presto, a leader in the restaurant hospitality technology industry, as the exclusive provider of automated voice ordering for all its corporate-owned drive-thru restaurants.

When Checkers & Rally’s announced the partnership, it marked the largest and first of its kind rollout of an A.I.-based voice assistant solution in the hospitality industry.

The new system is designed to help restaurants maximize labor efficiency. The focus is that simple.   Presto’s next generation solutions help improve order accuracy, increase upsells, and provide a superior guest experience. The Presto systems are scheduled to be deployed across all corporate-owned Checkers & Rally’s restaurants in the United States in 2022.

Currently, over 80 percent of Checkers & Rally’s sales are being generated from the drive-thru, a clear indication that there is a growing opportunity for a frictionless drive-thru model such as Checkers & Rally’s. A faster, more efficient drive-thru can offer significant competitive advantages and reduce lines that may discourage customers from ordering.

So, in 2021, Checkers & Rally’s conducted a detailed pilot program of Presto’s automated voice ordering technology at multiple locations over a four-month period. During this time, Presto’s solution delivered a high level of automation and accuracy with over 98% of drive-thru orders completed with minimal intervention from restaurant employees. The Presto solution also performed well with unique or infrequently ordered menu items and easily managed various guest accents.

Frances Allen, President and Chief Executive Officer at Checkers & Rally’s, stated, “Checkers & Rally’s is the pioneer of the double drive-thru restaurant model, so our decision to again lead the industry with the largest rollout of an A.I.-based voice assistant solution should be no surprise,” ... “We are excited about this new era in partnership with Presto, a leader in the restaurant hospitality technology field. As a company, we embrace technology that will help our team members maximize time and efficiency while making their jobs easier and more enjoyable, creating a better experience for them as well as our guests.”

The Presto partnership is expected to enable Checkers & Rally’s to streamline the guest experience while increasing the guest-to-staff ratio in the drive-thru. By deploying Presto, Checkers & Rally’s believes that they can free up staff for more people-dependent areas of their business and enhance guest interaction overall.

Rajat Suri, Founder and CEO of Presto, stated, “We’re excited to be selected by Checkers & Rally’s as their exclusive drive-thru automated speech recognition partner for all their corporate-owned locations.”. “Checkers & Rally’s desire to take the industry forward through disruptive innovation is inspiring, and Presto is fully committed to supporting this bold vision.”

In case you did not know, Presto offers a powerful next-generation drive-thru voice solution that uses A.I. to automate speech recognition for restaurant drive-thru’s. This solution has been developed in partnership with Hi Auto, a conversational A.I. technology company focused on creating a human-like solution for automating and optimizing the sales experience at drive-thru restaurants.

Presto’s solutions take orders using automated A.I. that frees up staff by automatically transmitting orders to the restaurant’s POS system. The company believes that its solutions enable faster transactions and improve order accuracy by eliminating human order taking. They can also increase check sizes with automatic upselling and cross-selling.

Are you ready for some fresh ideations? Do your food marketing ideas look more like yesterday than tomorrow? Interested in learning how our Grocerant Guru® 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 one of the following links: Facebook,  LinkedIn, or Twitter