Restaurants, Grocery Stores, Convenience Stores, are but among the sectors within retail foodservice that are trying to garner a larger share of stomach garnering customers migrating from traditional avenues of retail food sales to new mix & match meal component bundling offers, according to Steven Johnson, Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions®.
Fast casual restaurant chain, Smashburger intends break into the grocerant niche Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat fresh food space with a dedicated catering program to fill that void with a new fast casual menu and platform.
Back in the day, burgers are not known to be very travel-friendly—a catering hurdle Smashburger surmounted through a combination of technology, packaging innovation and improved production management. The pandemic accelerated the process. Packaging matter as our grocerant guru has note time and tome again.
Ty Goerke, Smashburger’s head chef and senior manager of operations and brand performance, stated, “At the start of the pandemic, we packaged individual entrees and sides to donate to hospital workers and partnered with some of the big box retailers, like Target, to feed their essential workers,”.
So, Goerke had discovered that burgers are better travelers when the lettuce, tomato, sauce and other toppings are packaged separately so the bun doesn’t get soggy. That separation not only promotes the quality of the food in transit, it’s an extra safety and sanitation measure—a bigger concern now after two pandemic years.
Yet there are more options, in place of burgers, customers can order a Crispy Chicken Tender Bar for 10 with a choice of dipping sauces. Additionally, each of the “bars” is available in increments of 10 to feed larger crowds.
This new catering menu also includes individual boxed meals similar to what the chain sent out during COVID. Customers can order a Breakfast Smashburger, Classic Smashburger, chicken tenders, Cobb salad or Vegetarian Smashburger as an entrée, with chips, tots, salad or bacon on the side. Orders come with cookies for dessert.
Smashburger took time perfecting packaging and production of the new items. The “superwrap” Smashburger uses for regular to-go orders does a good job of wicking off some moisture and holds the temperature of the bun and burger, he added.
Right now every one of Smashburger’s 250 restaurants is set up to do catering now, with the managers at each location supervising the program. Everything is done exactly as it would be if dining in.
Goerke stated, “For every catering order, we still smash and cook every burger to order and cut the produce right before using,”. “The managers set the schedule so everything is prepared right before it goes out the door, with the burgers the last item to be cooked.”
They would like it if catering orders typically come in 24 hours ahead, most do, so if extra labor is needed—particularly during the rush from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.—it isn’t last minute. And no extra make lines have been added; catering is done from the same store footprint and kitchen.
Technology matters in all thing’s food and Smashburger partnered with EZ Cater’s platform for the technology component of the program. “EZ Cater does a lot of the organization, finalizing orders and integrating with our POS system,” said Scott Johnson, head of marketing North America Division at Jollibee Food Corp., Smashburger’s parent company. “Ty and his team worked really hard on timing the production, how to deliver the product, the packaging and other details.”
Although the catering program is geared to businesses with workers returning to offices, consumers are ordering the burger bars, too, said Johnson. Smashburger expects to see social catering pick up even more as group get-togethers and entertaining ramp up.
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: Steve@FoodserviceSolutions.us or 253-759-7869
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