Tuesday, January 31, 2023

C-Store Consumers want Fresh Food Fast Priced Right


Convenience store operators want to garner a larger share of stomach and they continue to target fast food restaurant customers looing for something new, fresh, fast, that cost less.  Steven Johnson Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions® stated, the constant fluctuating price of gasoline is not attractive to consumers nor does it drive convenience store brand loyalty.”

Grocerant nice Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat fresh prepared food service as an entity with identity as a branded meal solution fresh and fast will drive customer brand loyalty while providing the platform for consistency that consumers are looking for according to Johnson.  

The stock market is up one day down the next and the news does not change much. So, as the country wrestles with a sinking economy and surging inflation, costs are going up, and that is starting to present concerns for convenience stores. Let’s look and see what some C-store professionals have to say about 2023.  M. David May, director of food services for Kwik Stop in Nebraska, reminded us this month that the industry’s most prosperous category, while a vital part of consumers’ daily lives, is still very much tied to the economy.

“The price of fuel has a tremendous impact on our foot traffic in the stores,” May said. “Customers weren’t coming in as much or buying as much when gas was approaching $5 per gallon, but now that gas prices are retreating, we’re seeing our store sales go up.”

To attract cost-conscious consumers, May, always tries to have some type of meal deal combining chicken and a small side for a value price of between $5 and $8. This bundling has proven effective. 

Retailers are going to have to be innovative and be quick on their feet to maintain their foodservice business as customer discretionary spending dwindles. The key to maintaining sales is remembering to excel at the basics. Customers are busy, hungry and increasingly price sensitive. Retailers must focus on meeting customers’ demands on their schedule with healthy options, affordable prices and outstanding service. I realize this is no secret, but in tough times like this, growth isn’t always the best course. Basic blocking and tackling to maintaining existing sales are an effective solution. 

Among the convenience store industry’s greatest competitive advantages over the past two decades has been its ability to provide fresh fast service, fresh food discovery, and meet or exceed customers’ immediate demands, so much so that it’s become instinctive to top-quartile chains. 

Looking a customer ahead, the foodservice space sees increasing impacts and competition from online. Third-party delivery services have created unprecedented options for foodservice, and not just for the food itself, but on price. Customers simply have more options and many different price points to choose from. These are some difficult waters to navigate. 

All of this means if you are not tracking the trends and your customers’ other options, you will fall behind. Convenience store retailers must do everything possible to entice customers to try new products with full flavors, edifying food discovery, and return for more, without negatively impacting why the stores exist: to provide convenience.

Whatever level of food you feel comfortable delivering — the simplest or the most complicated —  you must focus on freshness, quality, and value. But the ultimate piece is consistency. You have to be able to deliver great food consistently.

What’s more, these don’t necessarily need to be elegant upscale menu items. It’s whatever you feel you can do great. If you are comfortable selling sandwiches, sell the best sandwiches you can. If it’s fried chicken, have the best fried chicken in the market. It is a rigorous endeavor, but this is where market leaders excel.

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

Are you Looking to Grow


Larger Share of Stomach

Monday, January 30, 2023

KFC Balances Employees and Customers for Sustainability


Balancing a ‘dual mandate’, is the mantra most business leaders have been hearing a little too much of lately. So, just what is the most important dual mandate within the retail food sector today? That mandate according to Steven Johnson Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions® is branded messaging with equal relevance for consumers and employees as both are required if your foodservice establishment is to survive over the long haul.

Johnson believes that, “KFC is on the right track edifying both consumers and employees with dual branded programs that edify both consumers and employees.”  After all, sustaining incremental customers and retaining employees it a key drive to long term success.

Recently, the KFC Foundation, in partnership with Western Governors University (WGU), announced that KFC restaurant employees will have the opportunity to receive 100 percent paid tuition when attending WGU to earn their degree.

Through this partnership, KFC restaurant employees can choose from more than 60 different bachelor’s and master’s degree programs and certification programs across business, information technology, education, and health care. The KFC Foundation program is non-competitive, meaning every eligible employee who applies and enrolls will get tuition coverage. Access to this opportunity is available beginning day one on the job for restaurant employees. WGU also offers rolling start dates every month, so KFC restaurant employees have the flexibility to enroll at any time and begin online courses as soon as they’re ready.

“Every year we look for new ways to support and enhance the lives of KFC restaurant employees,” says Emma Horn, executive director of the KFC Foundation. “What better opportunity to be able to offer team members than a flexible college degree program from Western Governors University that can fit seamlessly into their schedule. The program at WGU is perfect for someone who may not have enough hours in the day to balance a traditional college experience on top of a full- or part time- job and other life priorities.”

Driving sustainable messaging to consumers, KFC recently announced that Integrate Solar will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony January 30 to showcase its new solar-powered drive-thru canopy installed at a local KFC restaurant. The 72-foot canopy, designed in partnership with Stewart Restaurant Group, is equipped with 57 solar panels and will produce 1.2 million kilowatt hours of renewable energy over the lifetime of the system. The KFC location at 11935 Rosedale Hwy in Bakersfield will also lower its electricity costs by $11,000 in its first year alone with the new canopy and save nearly $400,000 over the system’s guaranteed life. The solar canopy solution designed specifically for Quick Serve Restaurant drive-thrus also shields employees from the sun and rain when serving customers.

Integrate Solar Cofounder Kevin Benefiel, stated, “As California’s electricity rates continue to rise, fast food restaurants have looked for ways to lower their energy bills, but have never found their small, equipment-filled rooftops viable options for solar,”. “This solution solves that problem and helps improve a store’s operations overnight.”

In case you did not know, a typical Quick Serve Restaurant building takes up less than 20 percent of the location’s total space. Integrate Solar has created a way to turn that underutilized space—drive-thrus, parking lots, outdoor seating areas—into profitable solar assets that improve the customer experience, slash electricity costs, and help brands hit their sustainability goals.

Justin Stewart, co-owner of the Stewart Restaurant Group, stated, “We needed a canopy over our drive-thru to protect our team members taking orders outside of the building. When we compared the costs of a typical canopy to the costs and value of Integrate Solar’s canopy, the decision to go solar was a no-brainer.”

So, solar canopies ultimately cost less than comparably-sized traditional canopies because solar canopies qualify for a Federal Investment Tax Credit worth up to 60 percent of the total cost of the canopy. The extension and expansion of the solar Investment Tax Credit was part of the Inflation Reduction Act that Congress passed in 2022. With help from the tax incentives, the energy savings generated from the solar panels will allow the Stewarts to have fully recovered their investment in less than five years.

As consumer preferences have changed, more customers are choosing the drive-thru and outdoor seating instead of dining inside the restaurant, causing fast food restaurants to innovate to meet the new demands. Solar canopies address these customer needs while also locking in lower energy costs and generating more renewable electricity for Californians.

Balancing a ‘dual mandate’ with branded pro-active messaging will drive top-line sales and bottom-line profits.

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

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Mini-Meals or Snacks Consumers Like to Eat Often


It’s at the intersection of comfort and comfort foods we find consumers treating themselves at home, at work, and on the road according to Steven Johnson Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions®.

Mini-meals or snacks have become a daily habit for more than three-quarters of consumers.  Without regard to rising costs and economic challenges, consumers continue to prioritize snacking as a meal replacement.

In a new report conducted by Mondelēz International's, (its fourth) annual State of Snacking report found approximately 71 percent of consumers snack at least twice a day.  The global consumer trends study examines annual insights on how consumers make snacking decisions.

Developed in partnership with The Harris Poll, the report tracks snacking attitudes and behaviors among thousands of consumers surveyed across 12 countries. In addition to snacking daily, consumers globally agree that they are snacking:

·         Mindfully — Seventy-eight percent of consumers say they take time to savor indulgent snacks and 61 percent saying they take time to portion out snacks before eating them.

·         Frequently — Consumers are increasingly replacing meals with snacks, with 55 percent reporting a higher likelihood to eat a snack across all three standard mealtimes.

·         Sustainably — Reducing waste is a top priority, with seven in 10 consumers saying they prioritize snacks that have less packaging and 72 percent saying they typically recycle it.

The survey demonstrates that consumers are looking for snacks to meet different needs in their lives. More than three-quarters (78 percent) say they regularly snack to reward themselves and for a sense of comfort (77 percent). An overwhelming majority of millennials (85 percent) cited both of these reasons.

Given the current economic environment, 67 percent of survey respondents say they would buy fewer of their favorite snack brands rather than generic alternatives, regardless of cost.

"Our State of Snacking report confirms that in these trying times, consumers around the world view their favorite snacks as affordable and necessary indulgences," said Dirk Van de Put, chairman and CEO of Mondelēz International. "Snacking continues to be a way for consumers to connect or to enjoy a moment of delight in their day, further demonstrating our belief that every snack can be enjoyed in a mindful way."

Taking a deeper dive into the report's key insights, here's what macro trends are impacting consumers' snacking decisions:

Mindful Snacking

·         Consumers are making an effort to be mindful and present while snacking, with 78 percent stating they take time to savor indulgent snacks.

·         Sixty-one percent of consumers take time to portion out snacks before eating them and check nutrition labels on snacks before buying them (68 percent).

·         Less than half (46 percent) of respondents say they feel guilty when enjoying an indulgent snack or treat.

Staying Connected

·         Snacking offers an important opportunity to connect with others, with seven in 10 confirming, "Sharing snacks with others is my love language."

·         The trend of regularly sitting down to enjoy snacks with loved ones is especially strong among households in India and Mexico.

Environmental Impact

·         Consumers are very focused on how their snacking choices impact the environment, saying they recognize that both companies and consumers play key roles in sustainable snacking.

·         Sixty-three percent of consumers agree that snacks with a higher environmental impact should cost more, especially millennials (70 percent) and Generation Z (69 percent).

·         Sixty-four percent of consumers are willing to pay more for snacks that are better for the environment and 65 percent would pay more for snacks with ethically sourced ingredients.

Martin Renaud, chief marketing and sales officer at Mondelēz International, stated, "Today's consumer is more conscious than ever about their consumption — and that includes health and well-being, as well as the impact on the planet," ... "The findings of this report continue to help inform our strategy as a global snacking leader with a focus on chocolate and biscuits and a commitment to mindful and sustainable snacking."

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

Do you Want to Build a

Larger Share of Stomach? 

Call the

Saturday, January 28, 2023

At Burger Patch Success Equals Build, Measure, Learn, and Repeat


Success does leave clues. One clue that you on the right path is ‘listening’ to your customers.  There are several ways that companies do that today but still one of the best ways is very simple.  Ask them how you are doing.  Then follow-up with how could we do better.  That according to Steven Johnson Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions®.

When your consumer move restaurants need to move with them.  Burger Patch has done just that and done it well in the opinion of Johnson.   Johnson suggests, that they are following Foodservice Solutions® time tested four simple steps for continues success: Build, Measure, Learn, and Repeat.  Consumers are dynamic not static your brand must be dynamic as well.

Our Grocerant Guru® believes Burger Patch is on the right track by recalibrating its price, value, service equilibrium with the information it garners from consumers.  Here is Foodservice Solutions® current price value, service equilibrium formula:  Price + Quality + Social + Portability = Value.

Recently Burger Patch announced a series of ten sweeping customer-focused updates today under the umbrella “Burger Patch XTRA”. In response to over 5,000 customer surveys, comments, reviews and emails received over the past four years, the chain recently nominated by VegNews for “Best Vegan Fast-Food” in the nation, revealed the program which aims to provide XTRA value, XTRA savings and XTRA options.

So, having now served well over 500,000 loyal #PatchPeople since opening doors to their first brick and mortar store in 2019, Burger Patch analyzed thousands of historical customer data points for purchase and word trends to respond with specific updates to products, pricing and programs. Prominent themes included an inflation-fueled chorus asking for increased price flexibility, value and loyalty incentives.

The list of ten new updates launching with Burger Patch XTRA includes the following:

·         XTRA Patch Value Combos - $3 off over 200 new combinations of entrees, sides and drinks

·         XTRA Large Burgers – 20% more meat in every patty and 50% larger than comparable chains

·         XTRA Value Priced Items – new $4.99 Fun-Size Shakes & large Fry Baskets

·         XTRA Volume Discounts – 33% off with purchase of three homemade Patch Side Sauces

·         XTRA Items From Seasonal Favorites – Patch Tots & Hunny Mustard now available permanently

·         XTRA Kids Meals – 33% off new Grilled Cheeze, Patch Tots & Fun Size Shake kids combo

·         XTRA Big Discounts – new 15% off for students & military

·         XTRA Customizations – Dozens of new lower-priced options to personalize a burger, basket or bowl

·         XTRA Savings – Money back when excluding select ingredients from items, plus new lower prices

·         XTRA Perks – Redeem Patch Points for free delivery, free entrées, 15% off & cash back from $1 to $5


Burger Patch co-founder Phil Horn, stated, “Inflation has hit everyone hard,” ... “Through our surveys, it was clear that many of our regulars are making tough financial decisions to meet their monthly budgets which has impacted their ability to visit us as much as they would like. Our customers deserve extra, not less. Our new Burger Patch XTRA platform gives our Patch People a delicious, convenient meal to look forward to a little more often again.”

This new program becomes even more attractive with the ability to double-down and layer select discounts and combos. By registering for a free Patch Perks account in the Burger Patch app, customers can earn Patch Points for each purchase and redeem those points for discounts like $3 off on top of the $3 already saved with the new Patch Value Combos. The same goes for students – show your student ID in-store and receive an additional 15% off the new combo prices. Plus, new members will receive a free Patch Burger perk in the app for a limited time. Select XTRA products and pricing are available exclusively for pickup or delivery in-store, at burgerpatch.com or the Burger Patch app where customers can save up to 30% over 3rd party ordering platforms.

In case you did not know, since launching with Sacramento pop-ups in 2017, Burger Patch has expanded to multiple locations throughout Northern California in addition to their dedicated K.I.N.D. Lab kitchen of innovation and discovery. Serving a loyal following of both plant-based and “veg-curious” meat-eating diners, over half a million customers have joined them on a delicious mission of feeding kindness for the planet, animals and community. Voted a top 5 overall burger, and the number one vegan restaurant in Sacramento, the eatery is also known for their custom-crafted plant-based innovations including Smashwraps and award-winning Earth Quake Shakes.

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, January 27, 2023

Gen Z and Millennials still in Search of Menu Magic


Without ever getting on a ship to sail around the world or getting on an airplane to fly around the world today consumers can taste global regional specialties menu items by simply asking third mobile phones digital assistant to find that menu item ‘close to me’.

According to Steven Johnson Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions® “its second nature for Gem Z and Millennials to simply ask ‘google’ or ‘siri’ where to get ‘rice balls, authentic pumpernickel, or a fresh pierogi.”  

So, most of us know that Generation Z and Millennials are not only the most ethnically diverse generations in terms of their own cultural backgrounds, but they also have very diverse palates

That said Rachel Shemirani, senior VP at Barons Market, stated, “When they are eating out at restaurants, it’s not just Mexican or Italian or American anymore—It’s Vietnamese, Korean, all kinds of Middle Eastern, Ethiopian—it’s a much more cultured palate,”

Shemirani continues, “Interest from consumers in multicultural foods is increasingly driven not only by restaurant experiences, but also by social media like Instagram and TikTok, …“With social media now, people are already familiar with the product, and they know how to use it,” …“It’s just a matter of going to the local grocery store and finding it.”

So, Korean sauces have been especially popular at Barons, as have some African flavors, including harissa. Locally-made tortillas and salsas are also very popular at the Southern California retailer, Shemirani added.

Charlotte Myer, VP of merchandising at New York-based online grocer FreshDirect, stated, “her customers have been particularly interested in Sichuan and Korean flavors, with sales of Sichuan chili crisp and gochujang sauce both gaining sales in the past year, compared with a year ago.” 

FreshDirect plans to expand its selection in both Sichuan and Korean flavors in the coming months. Myer cited increasing consumer demand for a variety of multicultural, shelf-stable sauces, including products from Hillside Harvest, Fly by Jing, New York Shuk, and Mina.

Myer continue, “From Sichuan to Moroccan-inspired sauces, there is a consistent trend of consumers buying a diverse array of sauces to use in various at-home recipes–a mode of culinary tourism that they can enjoy from the comforts of their own kitchen.”

Did you now, that, Brooklyn Delhi, for example, offers ready-made sauces that enable consumers to create dishes such as tikka masala or vindaloo, while noodle kits from Momofuku, which include noodles and a sauce packet, are another standout.

Fly by Jing’s chili crisp and its other sauces have been especially popular, Myer said. “They have been one of the most successful new brands that we’ve launched recently and are already one of the top performers in the category,”…. “Their umami-rich sweet, tangy flavor draws inspiration from the hole-in-the-wall restaurants that dot the streets of Chengdu, the founder, Jing’s, hometown.”

Caribbean flavors have also been gaining traction, Myer said, citing hot sauces from Hillside Harvest, inspired by the flavors of Jamaica, the home of founder Kamaal Jarrett.

“We are seeing more and more product innovation inspired by Caribbean flavors and are looking to build out our selection in these areas as well,” Myer said.

Myer went on to point out that, multicultural frozen meals have been helping drive sales gains among frozen foods, particularly Indian-inspired frozen meals from brands such as Deep Indian Kitchen and Fabalish.

Frozen heat-and-eat meals from a variety of global cuisines have also been performing well at Barons, Shemirani said, noting that the retailer is considering adding even more of these items to its assortments.

Flavor Matters if you Want to

Build a Larger Share of Stomach

Recent data from Nielsen show that several categories of multicultural foods have shown strong dollar sales gains in the past year. Frozen appetizers such as taquitos and wontons were both up in double digits — 19.9% and 38.2%, respectively — for the 52 weeks ending Oct. 29, compared with a year ago, across all food retail segments.

Frozen Latino handheld entrees showed similar gains, with dollar sales of burritos up 14.7% and empanadas up 29.7%.

In the Mexican shelf-stable categories, staple products such as spices and seasonings, condiments, sparkling water, and beans and rice dominate dollar sales volumes, according to Lynda Glass, category manager of kosher, Mexican, Hispanic and Caribbean foods at distributor KeHE.

Asian staples and snacks are also performing well.

“Sales for the Asian category at KeHE are outpacing the market, and we are seeing continued high demand for Asian products,” said Morgan Lee, KeHE’s category manager of Asian, Indian, Thai, frozen Asian, and rice prepared.

Driving the gains are products such as Asian noodles, up 25% at KeHE; Asian snacks, up 45%, and Asian drinks, up 46%.

Lee said health and wellness are key drivers in many Asian food categories, citing research from Mintel showing that 42% of consumers associate Asian foods with healthfulness.

“We’re seeing better-for-you innovations with non-fried ramen, low-carb konjac noodles, and fermented foods like Korean kimchi and doenjang,” said Lee.

Menu Inclusion vs Limited Time Offers (LTO)

What do you do with your meu? Keep adding new flavor profiles or use a LTO to drive trial? One, of the longstanding questions surrounding the merchandising of multicultural products is whether or not to integrate them into the mainstream assortments, or to maintain a separate “international aisle.”

Now in the grocery sector both Lee and Glass said it’s up to individual retailers to determine whether or not to segregate multicultural foods. “It depends greatly on the retailer intention for the category,” said Glass. “In other words, who is the target consumer for the retailer, and how broad or narrow they wish to be.”

Lee agreed, but added that having a “global” section in the store, with multicultural adjacencies, can simplify the consumer experience by creating a one-stop-shop for all their ingredient needs. Shemirani, meanwhile, said Barons’ customers seem to prefer having the multicultural products integrated with the mainstream sets.

What does this mean for a chain restaurant menu or independent restaurant; simple more regional flavors and LTO’s for international holiday periods.  One this is clear menu flavor profiles will increase.

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.