Saturday, September 24, 2022

A Hit or A Miss Zaxby's Sauce-Flavored Popsicle


Yes, you read that right, Zaxby's, the premium quick-service restaurant, beloved for its Chicken Fingerz, wings and legendary Zax Sauce, has partnered with Alabama-based gourmet popsicle brand Frios to introduce sauce-flavored popsicles. Zaxby's 'Saucesicles' that went online for free Sept. 19, 2022 through, first come first served, while supplies last. The frozen treat will feature two of the brand's boldest sauces: Zax Sauce and Tongue Torch.

Patrick Schwing, chief marketing and strategy officer at Zaxby's, stated, "Saucesicles were created for our most loyal fans that can't get enough of our signature sauces. The collaboration with Frios is built on flavor, bringing together two iconic Southern brands,".

So, the Saucesicles come in two flavors: Zax Sauce and Tongue Torch. The Zax Sauce-flavored Saucesicle features all the sweet and tangy and creamy flavors created by the secret blend of spices, black pepper and Worcestershire Sauce. The Tongue Torch Saucesicle is a mild heat tomato pop with notes of garlic, paprika, turmeric and a hint of lime.

Zaxby's has renamed the month of September 'Saucetember' to highlight the brand's proprietary portfolio of 12 dipping and tossing sauces. Zaxby's is celebrating 'Saucetember' by treating its loyal fan base to this saucy goodness on a stick.

Saucesicles come in packs of eight and are limited to one order per person. States excluded from shipping include Alaska, California, Hawaii, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Puerto Rico and Washington. 

For fans who might miss out on the spicy-saucy treat, Zaxby's will also offer a Buy-One-Get-One-Half-Off (BOGOHO) Boneless Wings Meal Deal with wings tossed in one of Zaxby's eight sauces, when ordering through the app on September 27.

"Partnering with Zaxby's on this one-of-a-kind project has been a fantastic opportunity, bringing to life Zaxby's unique idea for a new offering of their sauces," Cliff Kennedy, CEO and founder of Frios adds.

The team at Foodservice Solutions® love this marketing ideation.  Our only question is why September 19? Why not in July?

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

Friday, September 23, 2022

Restaurants Prices and Grocery Prices are Up but Consumer Like Eating Out


Regular readers of this blog know that consumers paid higher prices for everything from cereal to eggs last month, sending retail food price inflation up 0.7% in August and 13.5% year over year, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Last months, 13.5% increase was the highest rate for that number since March 1979, the latest in a string of four-decade highs for retail food price inflation. Prices are up for basically everything. Over the past year, the price for breakfast cereal rose 23% and eggs increased nearly 40%.

Meat prices seem relatively tame by comparison. Meats, poultry and fish prices are up 8.8% over the past year. But poultry prices rose 15.9% as chicken and turkey producers continue working their way through a springtime rash of Bird Flu.

More troubling is the fact that driving much of the increase in grocery prices has been retailers’ own rising costs for labor and food. Wage rates have soared amid historic shortages of labor, while those same labor concerns have helped drive up the cost of many food products. The war in Ukraine and other issues, such as a shortage of truck drivers, have also contributed to the problem.

Overall, food costs for consumers rose 11.4% over the past 12 months in August, the highest rate since 1979.

In a Battle for Share of Stomach

You Can Win

Now, prices at restaurants and foodservice operators increased 0.9% in August. Prices are up 8% over the past year as operators increased charges to consumers to offset their own cost increases for wages and food.

Much of that acceleration is due to sharply higher prices at school lunch programs, where many states ended free meals to students. Prices at schools and employee sites are up 23.7% over the past year.

But both full-service and limited-service restaurants continue to raise prices. Full-service restaurants increased prices 0.8% last month, higher than the 0.6% increase the month before. Limited-service restaurants increased prices 0.7%, down from the 0.8% they increased prices in July.

For the full year, full-service restaurants have increased menu prices 9%. Limited-service restaurants increased charges 7.2%. Overall, inflation rose 0.1% in August. But on an annual basis, the consumer price index slowed to 8.3% from 8.5% the previous month. Lower gas prices drove much of that slowdown.

According to a new report titled TouchBistro 2022 Diner Trends Report  fund:

1.       Of the 2,600 diners surveyed for the report, 68% rank food quality as the most important factor when deciding where to dine. Location, customer service and price follow close behind, at 66%, 64% and 62% respectively.

2.       Eating at local and independent restaurants is also a priority; 63% of respondents prefer them over chains and franchises.

Restaurant decision-making is also influenced by cravings—no matter what the diner’s demographics. The research found that three-quarters of Millennials, Gen Xers and Boomers choose a restaurant based on the type of food they want to eat.

3.       But Gen Z is more likely to be swayed by social media and Instagram influencers; 39% of respondents in this group say they’ve tried a new restaurant based solely on the recommendation of an influencer. While Instagram still reigns supreme, TikTok is on the rise—21% of Gen Zers check out this platform before dining out.

4.       Posting a tempting menu online is definitely a plus for all generations, as 84% of diners browse the menu ahead of time and 79% look at a restaurant’s website before they visit.

5.       While inflation has jacked up menu prices, higher prices are not necessarily a turnoff. Forty-five percent of Americans say that menu price increases would only somewhat affect their decision to visit a restaurant, suggesting that diners are willing to absorb some price increases to enjoy the food they love.

6.       A bad reputation is much more likely to drive a diner away from a restaurant. And 73% of survey respondents would be deterred by a negative health inspection rating.

7.       Chains are more likely than independent restaurants to offer loyalty programs, but indies might benefit from this incentive, according to the report. More than three-quarters (86%) of diners showed interest in joining a loyalty program if it provided them with access to discounts and coupons for free items.

In case you did not know, TouchBistro is a restaurant management system that integrates POS, customer engagement solutions and other operational features on one platform. The company partnered with Maru Matchbox to conduct the survey of 2,600 diners across the U.S and Canada.

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

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Food Retailers Halloween Season Can’t Start Soon Enough


Restaurants, Convenience Stores, Grocery Stores let the fun begin!  Did you know that 60% of Americans agree that it is socially acceptable to start celebrating the holiday before October. That said, we turned to Steven Johnson Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions®. 

Johnson, stated, “linking your brand to ‘fun’ edifies it with a positive brand message.  The more fun you can spin into your Halloween messaging and offerings the longer your brands positive halo will be top of mind with consumers”.

So, check this out, according to new findings from The Hershey Co. conducted online by The Harris Poll on behalf of The Hershey Co. in early August found that 60 percent of Americans agree that it is socially acceptable to start celebrating Halloween before October.

Here let’s see what else they found:

1.       70 percent of parents with children under the age of 18 say it is socially acceptable to start celebrating Halloween before October.

2.       Additionally, 75 percent of respondents agree that they start decorating the outside of their homes for Halloween as early as they want to.

Alyssa Smith, senior manager, Halloween at The Hershey Co, stated, "We know spotting that first bag of Halloween candy, whether it's Hershey's, Reese's or Kit Kat, is a seasonal thrill for our fellow Halloween superfans," …  "Finding out that a majority of people want to begin their Halloween celebrations before October was not surprising for us, but it ignited a spark for us to get the party started early."

Hershey is delivering on the Halloween excitement early by giving select fans the opportunity to receive a Halloween starter kit, complete with supplies, to celebrate the season. The starter kit will go to the first participants who enter the giveaway and contain some of the fan-favorite Halloween candy from Hershey, as well as décor, crafts and more.

Here is what an interactive participatory food marketing program from Hershey looks like:  For a chance to win, starting on Sept. 15 at 12 p.m. EST, fans can visit @Hersheys on Instagram and Twitter and respond to the dedicated giveaway posts using the hashtags #HersheyHalloweenKit and #Giveaway.

Hershey invites fans to share how they're kicking off their early celebrations for some inspiration in the comments section.

In addition to the seasonal giveaway, The Hershey Co. introduces Hershey's Halloween Props Milk Chocolate Bars, which feature six different images imprinted on the bar, including mustaches, cat eyes, sunglasses, mouths, fangs and eye patches.

The consumer sentiment survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of The Hershey Co. between Aug. 4–8. Approximately 2,065 U.S. adults ages 18 and older, of which 1,698 celebrate Halloween, where surveyed.

Based in Pennsylvania, The Hershey Co. has more than 100 brand names in approximately 80 countries worldwide that drive more than $8.9 billion in annual revenues, including such iconic brand names as Hershey's, Reese's, Kit Kat, Jolly Rancher and Ice Breakers, and fast-growing salty snacks, including SkinnyPop, Pirate's Booty and Dot's Pretzels.

Do you have an interactive participatory Halloween marketing messaging program for this year or next?

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

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

A Quick Look Back to Gain Insights too Look A Customer Ahead


Here are some of out Grocerant Guru's Clues from National Restaurant Show 2022 .  The retail foodservice customer is not fickle, they are evolving, dynamic, and moving forward searching for ways to make dinner complexity free according to Foodservice Solutions® Grocerant Guru®, Steven Johnson.  I hope you are not the Neanderthal brand marketer waiting for yesterday and a return to the way things were back in 2005, 2011, or 2019.  

The consumer is dynamic not static and all food retailers and start-up fresh food retailers must strive to create or maintain consumer relevance while evolving their own brand.  Foodservice Solutions® Grocerant Guru® Steven Johnson believes that the following ten clues to build contemporized food brand relevance that will edify your brand while building top-line sales, bottom-line profits and year over year customer counts.  

How to Build a Larger Share of Stomach

Here are his 10 Clues:

1.       Purpose:   Customer relevance with evolving focus.  The most successful brands are inclusive, include values greater than themselves.  That means they focus on a Lifestyle, a philosophy, an emotion, a point in time.  Today that must include a halo of better for you the consumer as better for the consumer is better for the retailer. 

2.       A story: Most major brands have a story. Examples: If you like Wawa you know the family history, If you line McDonald’s you have heard the story or seen the movie If you like Ford vehicles, you might be familiar with the story of Henry Ford or if you love your Nikes, you probably know how the Nike swoosh logo was created. You get the picture.  What’s your story and where is your story being told?

3.       Consumer interaction:  Foodservice Solutions® Grocerant Guru® firmly believes that within foodservice retail they brand, products, and footprint must be consumer interactive and participatory. When your business is first starting out, don't fool yourself into believing that your marketing efforts are 'brand building' efforts. They're not because to build a real brand, you have to have an extensive track record with consumers. Consumer will build the brand and the story for with you.

4.       Trust:   Establish operating standards that are measurable for every department within your company and each standard must edify a customer facing tactic, communication, service, or product.  When you've consistently delivered for your customers long enough, you'll gain the type of trust that many brands have.  Would you buy a Edsel today? Maybe so, but you are buying to today as a relic not as a product of today.

5.       Consistency:  Consumers today choose a product or service because of brand association.  The consumer is buying an expectation, a promise. Perhaps it's the expectation that the branded product is of higher quality or that the service will be provided in a more efficient manner. The expectation must be met time after time.

6.       Differentiation: Customer migration from a legacy  to an new brand is often borne of differentiation. Many brands offer products and services that are commodities but they're successful in developing some differentiation in the product or the avenue of distribution for their products and services that consumers are sold on.

7.       Imitators: Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and you're probably not a 'brand' until you have competitors trying to copy you. Enough said. (However, we have imitators trying to play catch up and we thank you for edifying our brand and sharing this blog.)

8.       Market leadership: Success does leave clues, collect your clues and own them. Top brands are usually looked at as leaders in the markets they compete in. Own the space, and understand why you do.

9.       Evolve:  The consumer is dynamic not static your brand must be as well.  The best brands are flexible and capable of reshaping and reinventing themselves and their messages over time. Brands are either growing or dying.

10.   A strong marketing presence: The information super highway has evolved into a mobile marketing platform in the palm of your customers hand; your message must follow with the traffic.  Don’t get stuck on the road less traveled.

Success does leave clues feel free to reach out for a private corporate presentation, confidential engagement, educational forum, or keynote. Contact: Steven Johnson Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions® at: 253-759-7869 or Johnson

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

What is the Definition of a Grocerant Today?

A grocerant is a hybrid of grocery store and restaurant. Grocerants offer freshly prepared, ready-2-eat, or Heat-N-Eat fresh prepared food for takeout or for inside a store setting. For example, a grocerant can be the fast-casual cafe, a fast food restaurant with a drive-thru, a grocery store deli or a grocery prepared meal section filled with meal kits or prepared meal components, or the freshly made, grab-and-go offerings of a convenience store.

There is a blurring the line between restaurants and grocery stores in the minds-eye of the consumer today. However, grocerants offer the appeal of freshly prepared foods in a convenient setting. A grocerant is an opportunity to pick up a meal you don't have to cook yourself, and therefore is an attractive option for a lot of people. In fact, three in four consumers would rather dine out with family and friends than stay in and cook, according to the National Restaurant Association. Let’s look at some additional facts:

1.       Recent Grocerant ScoreCards found 81.1% of consumers don’t know what’s for dinner at Noon, and 61.1 don’t know what’ s for dinner at 4PM %.

Grocerants are a fresh fast meal solution that can be customized for any family. Frequently, a grocerant is a dedicated area inside a grocery store that sells prepared meals. These meals might be designed for take-out, to be eaten off-premises, or there may be a seating area inside the store. There may be limited table service, too, or it may be self-serve.

A grocerant may take stocked items and use them to create meals in Ready-2-Eat or Heat-N-Eat packaging, or it may create meals from a separate store of ingredients.

Many typical grocery stores sell grab-and-go prepared foods. Companies the ilk of Central Market, Safeway, Giant Eagle, Publix, and Kroger, for example, all sell freshly prepared rotisserie chickens, salads, and sandwiches, and most also offer sushi and beverages, too.

Convenience stores are now excelling at selling fresh Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat meal components or meals; such as 7-Eleven, Wawa, Sheetz, and QuickChek also sell fresh and prepared sandwiches, salads, and beverages, and some locations offer dine-in seating.

Many grocerants include alcohol sales in their business model, including a selection of wine, beer, and cocktails as an added draw.

Whole Foods, typically known for its groceries, provides "Grab-and-Gourmet" prepared meals in addition to rotisserie chickens and catering platters. But at some locations, you'll find food courts, or food halls, featuring local beer and a variety of dine-in or take-out options, many showcasing local "Friends of Whole Foods" chefs. Visitors to its flagship food hall and cocktail bar at its Tyson's Corners, Virginia, location might find counter service, seating, and self-serve wine in addition to a specialty donut maker, Japanese pub, and superfood smoothie bar.

Independent restaurants you can find grocerants inside a variety of retailers, from large chain grocery stores to independent food stores to convenience stores and more. Many legacy chain restaurants and cafes also offer Ready-2-Eat bundled meals via the drive-thru or meals that can be purchased inside and taken home. For instance, at Starbucks, coffee customers can also pick up pre-packaged salads, wraps, and sandwiches.

There are also sections in department stores and kiosks in malls that offer ready-to-eat and heat-and-eat options, including entrees, soups, sides, or faster options like pizza and hot dogs. Generally, these items can be picked up or delivered.

Not only is there variety as to where to find a grocerant, but the grocerants themselves may have different themes. The grocery chain Wegmans offers its Market Café as a spot to pick up quick bites such as sushi, pizza, sandwiches, and salads. But it offers additional restaurants, too. Next Door by Wegmans offers healthy, chef-prepared foods using organic and sustainable ingredients from their store, while Amore by Wegmans provides classic Italian dishes and wine. The Burger Bar by Wegmans sells burgers and fries for take-out or delivery.

Further blending grocery stores and restaurants are premade meal delivery services such as Freshly or Daily Harvest. These businesses provide subscription plans that deliver prepared meals to your door; all you need to do is heat and eat. Other business models provide the ingredients and recipe cards for you to make your own meals. Blue Apron, for example, ships you the ingredients for the meal you choose, and you prepare it.

Grocerants are a hybrid of grocery store and restaurant aka any food retailer that sells fresh prepared meals and meal components that can be mixed and matched into a perfect family meal without the need for cooking from scratch. They typically sell grab-and-go meals or sometimes even offer sit-down dining and table service.

The word Grocerant is a result of the blurring of the line between restaurants and grocery stores created, defined, and first published as an Op-Ed article titled: Call Them Grocerants in August 1996 in FoodService Director and again in Nation’s Restaurant News authored by our own Steven Johnson to describe the undercurrents of food industry consumer changing eating a buying pattern.

On a side note; Johnson and Foodservice Solutions® received a US Trademark for the word Grocerant in 1998, subsequently gave it up to become the ‘Grocerant Guru®’. Today Foodservice Solutions® retail consultancy is the global leader within the grocerant niche.

Simply put today a grocerant is anywhere a consumer can find fresh prepared food positioned, placed, and priced for the time-starved consumer with Ready-2-Eat or Heat-N-Eat fresh prepared meals or meal components that can be bundled into a meal and or packaged for Take-Out, Take-Away, or To-Go.

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