Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Grab-N-Go Grocerant Meals aka Dinner in 2022


Food industry channels are all reporting that when they ask customers what it is they want for dinner, it is grab-n-go, grocerant niche Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat fresh prepared mix and match meal components or full bundled meals. According to Steven Johnson, Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions®.

Angela Hanson recently reported, “When a hungry customer makes a prepared food purchase, they typically face a binary choice: made-to-order, which maximizes freshness and customization, or grab-and-go, which offers items that can be consumed within the next few hours as they are out and about. Changing consumer behavior, however, has prompted increased sales of a third option: grab-and-go-home.  “

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, a shift in consumer behavior has seen convenience store grab-and-go visits decline 7.2 percent, while grab-and-go-home visits are up 3.4 percent, according to The Coca-Cola Co.'s iSHOP Study.

Stephanie McMahan, category leadership, small store shopper insights, North America operating unit, The Coca-Cola Co , stated, "Because consumers are spending more time at home and within the proximity of their local community, their needs have changed," … "Retailers can capture more grab-and-go-home trips with expanded immediate-consumption and future-consumption food and beverage product offers that reach beyond in-store shoppers and help consumers solve the need to provide for additional household members and occasions.”

Convenience store chain Kwik Trip Inc. divides its grab-and-go-home offering into two types: hot and ready to eat, or heat it when you get home. Kwik Trip Foodservice Director Paul Servais, stated, "We are seeing both of these segments grow," …"it is a hard business to break into” and “no one has completely figured this out."  (I guess they should have called the Grocerant Guru®)

There is no doubt that the shift toward grab-and-go-home largely comes from today’s consumers gaining a new perspective on old purchase motivators: speed and convenience.

McMahan continued, "Consumers are now evolving the previous 'grab-and-go' mindset to a 'grab-for-myself-and-other-people' behavior,". "While time is always a consideration, when consumers are on their way home to hungry household members, the speed of grab-and-go-home may be even more appealing."

There is more than just lunch or dinner. On the surface, it would appear that this increased focus on quick food purchases for hungry people at home could boost the dinner daypart, which has long been a challenge for the c-store industry. But Coca-Cola's research shows that grab-and-go-home trips span multiple dayparts relatively evenly, in part because of the pandemic era work-from-home lifestyle. In 2021, a quarter of grab-and-go-home trips took place in the morning, 21 percent occurred in the afternoon, and 27 percent occurred in the evening.

All foodservice retailers need to consider, catering to grab-and-go-home customers doesn't have to mean offering something drastically different from their existing grab-and-go lineup. The main difference lies in emphasizing accessibility and the ability to purchase multiple portions.

Grab-and-go-mix and match bundled meal options can include a wide variety of options, including larger individual product sizes, packaging designed for multiples of the same item, bundle deals, meal prep kits, take-home meals, and more.

Patrick Sebring, vice president of c-store sales at Smithfield Culinary, "When getting started, it's best if retailers do a bit of experimentation," advises. "With limited space and facing difficult labor issues, consider offering a couple of different items/packaging types at first and see how it goes. Look at what sells vs. what doesn't.”

Texas-based Texas Born (TXB) convenience stores are all about bundling, according to CEO Kevin Smartt. TXB offers such bundles as six tacos in a package, or large quantities of chicken to cater to families. "We find those customers are typically good repeat customers for us. They appreciate the bundles," Smartt said.

With the effects of inflation being felt across the board, offering grab-and-go-home bundles can give c-stores an advantage over quick-service restaurants and other foodservice retailers.

"People will be looking for value opportunities for take-home," Smartt pointed out.

Servais recommends that convenience retailers seeking a starting point for grab-and-go-home begin with hot offerings such as chicken wings and pizza, particularly in family-size.

Regular readers of this blog know that Kwik Trip is known for its Kitchen Cravings Take Home Meals program. Launched in 2019, the meals are prepared daily and individually packaged with full cooking instructions on the label. Standard selections include customer favorites like cheesy chicken casserole, beef stroganoff and multiple pasta meals, along with a smaller lineup of limited-time offers (LTOs).

"We have a strong core menu now with things like mac 'n cheese, chicken alfredo, meatloaf," Servais said. "The LTO selections are more about us finding the right meals for the future. Every month, we introduce two meals for a limited time, and we are looking for meals that 'stick.'"

C-store operators should not expect sales to skyrocket immediately as it takes time to change customers' buying habits, the foodservice executive cautioned.

"Long-term, we look for the Take Home Meals program to grow and become a significant part of our food sales, but we realize this will take a while," Servais said. Are you prepared to win within the grocerant niche?

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: Steve@FoodserviceSolutions.us or visit us on our social media sites by clicking the following links: Facebook,  LinkedIn, or Twitter

Monday, May 30, 2022

Fresh Fast Flavorful Food the Plate Lunch

While McDonald’s, Burger King, Taco Bell and Wendy’s are a staple for millions of Americans looking for a quick fast meal during the lunch period. They define fast food for many, however my dad lived in Hawaii when I was a kid and every time visited, I could not wait to go to a corner outlet, food truck or food cart and get a ‘Plate Lunch;’ it was a meal like mom cooked and served at home. You ate with a fork not your hands. It was in fact a meal not just a grab-n-go experience according to Steven Johnson, Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions®.

They were all delicious, devoured, and delectable.

Hawaiian Bros Island Grill is in the process of expanding and this year year-over-year sales growth of 172%. Cameron McNie founder and co-CEO Hawaiian Bros Island Grill when recently talking about its growth stated, ““We got caught off-guard by the sales,” … “Our first two locations had opened really well and our third literally doubled what we were doing at those. We realized we had some major throughput problems.  You know the kind of problems every restaurant operator wants!

So, Kansas City, Mo.-based Hawaiian Bros retooled its drive-thru operations with the goal of serving one car every 30 seconds. Those efforts have paid off.

Hawaiian Bros currently has 30 locations, with plans to open another 15 units this year. All but two restaurants have Drive-thru’s. Its sales grew 172% in 2021, compared to the prior year, to $56.8 million, according to Technomic. In 2020, it had just nine locations. And it operated only four stores the year before that.

This is fresh fast food, that you eat with a fork!  Hawaiian Bros is currently seeing average unit volumes of $4 million to $5 million, McNie said. “It’s absolutely our goal to open locations with drive-thru’s,” he said. “I don’t think we would open another location without a drive-thru.”

In case you did not know, or are unfamiliar with Hawaiian cuisine, the plate lunch is essentially the island version of the Southern staple “meat and three.” It typically includes two scoops of white rice, topped with a protein, served with a generous portion of mayo-based macaroni salad.

So, as the story goes, This new normal comfort food offering, traditionally served on a segmented plate (hence the name), is said to have its roots in the 1880s, when it became the must-have lunch for workers on Hawaii’s pineapple and sugar plantations. Back then, many of the laborers came from Asia, so lunches typically came from leftover meat from last night’s dinner, served atop rice.

I showed up about 50 years later, when as I said lunch wagons began selling similar meals to workers, served on those now-iconic segmented plates. The carb-heavy meals soon became popular at restaurants and drive-ins on the islands.

With a nice twist most of the plate lunch’s protein options have their roots in Asian cuisine. Hawaiian Bros, for example, serves teriyaki chicken, kalua pork, Huli Huli chicken, sweet-and-spicy Molokai chicken and more.

Other plate lunch establishments might serve loco moco (hamburger patties topped with brown gravy and fried egg) or Spam musabi, in which the tinned meat is wrapped in nori. Simplicity is the name of the game at Hawaiian Bros, where the kitchen uses just over 80 SKUs to create the menu.

McNie continued, “We wanted to keep the menu very simplistic,”. “We’ve seen some great brands do really well with one or two core items. We just really saw the value in that. We want to be great at simple things.”

McNie founded the concept with his brother, Tyler, in 2017, and opened the first restaurant the following year. The two grew up in Oregon and worked at the small plate lunch chain owned by their family.

The McNies, though, decided to start their own concept, Hawaiian Bros Island Grill.

Cameron McNie, stated,  We’re kind of our own thing,”. “People try to bucket us into fast casual and QSR. Where we fit, I’m not 100% sure. I know we definitely have elements of both. We certainly aim to be quick, efficiency, speed, that’s a huge value to us. But the quality of the food, the fresh ingredients, making things to order, that’s an element of fast casual. Our food is fresh. There’s no freezers, fryers or microwaves.”

The key to Hawaiian Bros’ speed is the drive-thru, which generates 53% of the chain’s revenue.

After seeing the throughput issues at that third location, the chain decided to focus on drive-thru efficiency. Most kitchens now have a double-sided make line, with one side focusing on drive-thru orders. During busy times, two to three employees are stationed outside, at the drive-thru, with handheld devices to take orders.

And the chain has been adding second windows at the drive-thru, to better control the traffic flow. Customers pick up drinks at the first window and food at the next.

“Our operation in the kitchen is faster than the order-taking operation,” McNie said. “We had to figure out the math on, How do we get the right amount of orders coming in that we can produce?”

McNie said Hawaiian Bros is currently on the hunt for capital, to allow it to open more locations even more quickly. And it is in the midst of finishing franchising documents and hiring employees to focus on a future franchised business.

The McNies always wanted Hawaiian Bros to be a fun place to work. So, they’ve listened to employees to make that happen. The chain offers flexible schedules, “cool” (and free) crew shirts and hats, free meals during every shift, free health insurance and a generous vacation offering, he said.

“This has got to be a fun restaurant to work at,” McNie said. “We don’t want to be heavy on rules … Our goal is to be generous to the employees; they’re the ones making this happen.”

More than 80 employees who were essential to the opening of Hawaiian Bros’ first few stores were recently given an ownership stake in the company, he said. “Some cooks that were there on opening day got a piece of ownership in the company,” he said.

How are you standing out in a crowded field?  Fresh fast food on a plate that you wat with a fork is a good place to start.

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: Steve@FoodserviceSolutions.us

Sunday, May 29, 2022

Digital Food Sales Drive Grocerant Growth


Gen Z and Millennials are digital natives and have never had to wait for much of anything.  Today it is at the intersection of technology, lunch, dinner, and snacking that digital ordering has become second nature for the two top demographic cohorts drive success with retail foodservice according to Steven Johnson, Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions®.

Consumer are dynamic not static, they more forward at times they look back but rarely do they move backward and if they do it’s not for long according to Johnson. There is no doubt that the adoption of digital menus, digital ordering, and digital marketing have become the mainstay driving growth within the Grocerant niche filled with Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat fresh prepared food.

In a new report by released at the Food on Demand Conference in Las Vegas, NV by Paytronix Systems, titled; Paytronix Order & Delivery Report 2022: Navigating the Digital New Normal, found that digital orders have risen to one-third of total restaurant and convenience store food orders, up from just 12% pre-pandemic. While in-store sales remain down by nearly half, digital orders have remained elevated at 113% of pre-pandemic levels.

Andrew Robbins, CEO of Paytronix, stated, “Our ‘New Normal’ means the digital guest experience is no longer secondary to the physical experience, it’s front and center and marks one of the biggest changes I’ve seen in 20 years working with brands,” … “The opportunity for brands to use artificial intelligence to make experiences more personalized is huge. Learning directly from guests, presenting them with recommendations that resonate and instantly responding to their feedback with a personalized message from the store manager, is elevating brands that rely on their ability to connect with their guests.”

 Let’s look and more of the report findings:

·         Rise in Takeout Orders – While delivery was king before and during the height of the pandemic, more recent data indicates that takeout orders now dominate digital orders, with numbers even higher than they were pre-pandemic. Takeout jumped from approximately 35% of orders in January 2020 to a majority in March of 2022, a trend that appears to be increasing.

·         Third-Party Delivery Is Here to Stay – Third-party services will continue to play an important role in a customer acquisition strategy. To achieve success in today’s New Normal, restaurants and c-stores need to embrace new technology and third-party options and explore how to successfully integrate them into existing operations.

·         Delivery Customers are Different – For much of 2021, the average delivery tip was 12.5% of the subtotal, more than double takeout order tips. And 2021 takeout orders included a tip just 37% of the time compared to nearly 73% of delivery orders. Delivery customers are also more loyal, with 31% of orders coming from repeat customers.

·         Customer Feedback – Saving a guest relationship pays off. Paytronix data shows that issuing a coupon costs a restaurant $2.30 on average, but results in a $9.20 lift in that customer's lifetime value. That 4x ROI means a timely guest recovery strategy is a must-have.

·         AI Is Key to Gauging Customer Sentiment – Fifteen percent of reviews with a rating of 4.5 or better actually have a negative sentiment and could benefit from action, while 3-star reviews most frequently contain negative sentiment.

Consumers are dynamic not static. 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: Steve@FoodserviceSolutions.us or visit: us on our social media sites by clicking one of the following links: Facebook,  LinkedIn, or Twitter

Saturday, May 28, 2022

Is Jersey Mike’s Subs Flying Blind


Food delivery has outright changed the retail food world according to Steven Johnson, Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions®. Driven by the never-ending adoption of grocerant niche Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat fresh prepared food.

Recently, Jersey Mike’s Subs announced it has partnered with Flytrex, a leader in on-demand, ultrafast delivery for food and retail, to deliver food orders via drone in Holly Springs, North Carolina. Orders from Jersey Mike’s will be delivered via the skies to front and backyards of local residents, with a flight time of just five minutes. 

The service is operating in cooperation with longtime Flytrex partner Causey Aviation Unmannedunder a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) waiver allowing a delivery radius of one nautical mile – potentially reaching thousands of homes. Orders are placed using the Flytrex app, which updates customers regarding their order status along the route until the package is lowered safely by wire into their backyards. Flytrex and Causey conduct all flights while maintaining the highest safety standards.

Jersey Mike’s is one of the country’s fastest growing franchises, ranked #4 on Entrepreneur’s 2022 Franchise 500. The sub shop’s premium meats and cheeses are sliced on the spot and piled high on in-store baked bread. Jersey Mike’s fans crave their subs made Mike’s Way with the freshest vegetables – onions, lettuce and tomatoes – topped off with an exquisite zing of “the juice,” red wine vinegar and an olive oil blend. Authentic cheesesteaks are grilled fresh.

“Our goal is to ensure our customers get their authentic Jersey Mike’s sub sandwiches how they want them, when they want them,” says Scott Scherer, CIO, Jersey Mike’s Franchise Systems, Inc.“Partnering with Flytrex, we’re thrilled our fans can enjoy the freshest sub sandwiches flown directly to their backyards – it truly is a sub from above.”

The partnership with Jersey Mike’s follows a series of additional milestones for Flytrex. Most recently, the ultrafast drone delivery company launched in Granbury, Texas, just outside of Dallas-Fort Worth. Flytrex has also been operating in the state of North Carolina since September 2020, beginning in Fayetteville, and expanding to the town of Raeford. In October 2021, Flytrex launched its third drone delivery station in the ‘First in Flight’ state at the Holly Springs Towne Center. Flytrex’s delivery service is now available to 10,000 homes across North Carolina and Texas. The pioneering company has already completed thousands of drone deliveries – more deliveries via drone than any other company in the U.S.

“We’re excited to team up with Jersey Mike’s to deliver subs throughout the skies of North Carolina and look forward to expanding our partnership everywhere they deliver their delicious food,” says Yariv Bash, CEO and cofounder of Flytrex. “Drone delivery is accelerating quicker than anyone could have anticipated, and we are thrilled to be at the forefront of that movement – using our technology to ensure retailers and restaurants can stay ahead of the ultrafast delivery curve.”

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 GrocerantGuru.com, FoodserviceSolutions.US or call 1-253-759-7869

Friday, May 27, 2022

Restaurant Discontinuity Driven by Grocerant Growth


Once again, Foodservice Solutions® Grocerant Guru® Steven Johnson predicts that 2022 will be a record year of chain restaurant discontinuity.  Specifically, with more chain restaurant closing stores and fewer total chain restaurants open entering 2023.

Regular readers of this blog know that back in the day (2005) the team at Foodservice Solutions® released a White Paper Restaurant Consumer Discontinuity; we noted consumer migration from the restaurant sector.  Consumers moved as their preference for meals eaten in restaurants waned and they migrated too fresh prepared meals bought and eaten at home.  The undercurrents of consumer migration from Eating-Out to Eating-In (at home) is even strong today according to Johnson.   

The main driver of this change is consumers desire to Mix and Match meal components into a perfect family meal.  This has been going on for a long time now.  In fact, consumers purchased 8 billion fast food combo meals in the year ended January 2012, down more than 12 percent from the 9 billion sold in the same period five years earlier, and that trend is continuing.  Consumers are dynamic not static.  Digital ordering and delivery has grown 300% faster than dine-in traffic since 2014.  

In a Battle for Share of Stomach

You Can Win

Let’s see just what other preferences they have adopted:

1.       Recent 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 %.

2.       Roughly 66% of consumers purchase prepared food items from a retail location at least three times a month.

3.       83.1% all dinners have at least 1 grocerant niche Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat meal component and 68.4% have two meal components.

4.       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.

5.       Seventy-three percent of retail prepared food purchases are taken to go

6.       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%.

7.       55% of consumers would like to try autonomous EV delivery


Regular readers of this blog know we regularly documented that, consumers like to mix and match meal components. Mix and match meal bundling is a benchmark for success within the grocerant niche.

Recently we documented how grocery stores are now doing a great job at offering ‘better-for-you’ side dishes empowering consumers to buy fresh prepared sides from the ‘service deli’ rather than at a restaurant.  The intended consequence consumers are buying more entrees as well.  Consumers are dynamic not static is your branded food solutions static or dynamic?

Meal time is now becoming a time of convenient meal participation, with differentiation and individualization for the entire family.  The ability of the retailer to empower consumer choice within a bundled offering creates an additional platform for success. Do you want to understand how to empower that choice? Are you willing to empower customer migration back you your brand?

Foodservice Solutions® specializes in outsourced business development. We can help you identify, quantify and qualify additional food retail segment opportunities.  Foodservice Solutions® of Tacoma WA is the global leader in the Grocerant niche visit Facebook.com/Steven Johnson, Linkedin.com/in/grocerant or twitter.com/grocerant

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Grocerants Replacing Restaurants and Grocery Stores for Dinner


What’s for Dinner is the age-old question every parent hears, and most say I don’t know.  Today more and more families or looking online, or for new avenues of fresh food distributions in the way of meals and meal components that can be mixed and matched into perfect family meal.  

Alternative fresh food outlets with fresh prepared meal components and whole meals that can be bundled in 2022 is a big thing according to Steven Johnson, Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions®. 

It is at the intersection of a grocery deli, c-store, and restaurant that these new points of fresh food you find convenient locations and ample free parking, they’re adding stylish destination dining spots, cool enough to convince customers to come for milk and paper towels and stay for dinner.

A mash-up of two words, grocerant has broad meaning. According to Steven Johnson, a hospitality-industry consultant who calls himself the Grocerant Guru®, it can be any grocery store, convenience store, retailer or restaurant that offers freshly prepared or ready-to-heat food to eat on the premises, or to-go for time-starved consumers. Think self-branded concepts at supermarkets and even the glitzy glamour of food emporiums like Eataly.

Even the food industry near dinosaur Phil Lempert, stated, “For years, the trend went the other way, with restaurants taking business out of supermarkets,”

Lempert continued, “The focus is moving to higher-margin prepared and ready-to-eat meals. Like it or not, people still have to go to the grocery store, and now they see people sitting around having a glass of wine and a nice meal.”

Johnson went on to say, “Lampert and ilk grocery niche professionals would like to see that but it just is not so. In the last 15 years 50% of legacy grocery stores have closed.  Consumers are moving on. They are driving the adoption of grocerant niche Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat fresh prepared food as in the form of meal components and bundled meals.”

In 2018, industry consulting firm Technomic flagged the supermarket threat, noting that the unique consumer-focused traits that restaurants have long relied on are no longer inviolate. “Traditional retail and innovative foodservice alternatives will take share by diminishing the restaurant advantage of enjoyable experiences, quality and convenience.” In addition to supermarkets, Technomic says that meal kits, subscription services, food trucks, dark kitchens and gen-next vending also stand ready to chip away at restaurant profits.

There is no doubt that the last few decades were marked by a near obsession over restaurants, doesn’t mean that euphoria will last forever. What is clear according to Johnson is consumers are still time starved and do not want to cook from scratch like their parents and grand parents did.

Even Aaron Allen of global food consultancy Aaron Allen & Associates, stated, “Restaurants have to find ways to respond to these so-called grocerants,” says. It’s not, however, going to be by selling groceries, he adds. “They don’t have the space or experience to compete that way. Fortunately, they have lots of other things to offer.”

This is key as Allen advises against worrying too much about what supermarkets are up to. “Look at your value proposition through the lens of those it serves and then examine every element of your business – the training, technology, food, marketing, pricing and service. That’s where you’ll find ways to win.”

Know what customers expect from you, Devoting restaurant space to packaged foods might seem like a good idea, but it can be tricky. One Off Hospitality partner Paul Kahan says that Publican Quality Meats, a hybrid butcher shop and cafe in Chicago, has a handful of grocery-type items, such as olive oil, wine, spices and condiments. “We’ve scaled back a bit,” he says. “People come for meats and charcuteries from the butcher shop, bread from the bakery or they’re here for the restaurant. They’re not really here to get packaged foods, and a lot of it just sat there.”

“It has evolved since we opened,” says James Murphy, one of the restaurant’s owners. “Customers would ask where they could get some of the products we use in the restaurant, so we stock some authentic foods from Ireland. It’s a part of our brand and works nicely for what we do, but it’s not really a profit center.”

Once again planning is everything, don’t overlook seasonal opportunities, such as picnic fare in the summer and takeout side dishes during the holidays, to enhance business. Monitoring hotel promotions is a good place to start, especially innovative spots like the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills, California.

The hotel has found success with its PenAir program – airline-ready meals for guests to take aboard flights. And because the hotel caters to every whim and need, it fields phone orders for pick-up meals.

Foodservice Solutions® specializes in outsourced business development. We can help you identify, quantify and qualify additional food retail segment opportunities or a new menu product segment and brand and menu integration strategy.  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