Tuesday, February 28, 2023

At Starbucks Do Calories Matter to Consumers


Mini meals, menus, and calories have been top-of-mind with consumers for a couple of decades now. The ‘halo’ of better for you up until now has included calorie counts. According to Steven Johnson Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions®,” beverages have for many become meal replacements.  Consumers know the calories in most beverages today and opt to replace a meal for a beverage or traditional snack.”

Now, Starbucks is debuting a new beverage platform called Oleato.  Here is what is new; they are infusing Starbucks premium coffee drinks with cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil. Currently these beverages are exclusively (for now) to Starbucks stores in Italy.

So, the Oleato beverages served in cafes will include a caffe latte (made with Starbucks’ blonde espresso infused with Partanna extra virgin olive oil and oat milk), iced shaken espresso (made with espresso and oat milk infused with the Partanna extra virgin olive oil), and Golden Foam cold brew (a cold brew coffee topped with extra virgin olive oil-infused foam).

Currently only at the Starbucks Reserve Roastery in Milan, the Oleato platform will include the same latte and golden foam cold brew alongside an iced cortado (made with demerara syrup – similar to brown sugar syrup, orange bitters, oat milk, extra virgin olive oil, and garnished with an orange peel); an Oleato Deconstructed (Starbucks Reserve espresso combined with extra virgin olive oil infused with passionfruit cold foam); and an Oleato Golden Foam espresso martini (made with Starbucks Reserve espresso, vodka, vanilla bean syrup topped with golden foam made from an olive oil and fio di latte fusion. Do you know how many extra calories are in the Oleato beverages? 

Starbucks founder and former CEO Howard Shultz, stated, “Oleato represents the next revolution in coffee that brings together an alchemy of nature’s finest ingredients – Starbucks arabica coffee beans and Partanna cold pressed extra virgin olive oil,” …. “Today I feel just as inspired as I did 40 years ago, Oleato has opened our eyes to fresh new possibilities and a transformational way to enjoy our daily coffee.”

In case you did not know, Partanna is a brand of Sicilian cold-pressed olive oil that Schultz was introduced to during a trip to Sicily, when he also began partaking in the Italian tradition of imbibing a spoonful of olive oil every morning before coffee. He began to wonder if the two would mingle well together.

Amy Dilger, principal beverage developer for Starbucks, stated, “When creating the beverages, we were inspired by the rich history and origin stories of coffee and olive oil – two of nature’s most transcendent ingredients,” said. “Infusing Starbucks coffee with olive oil yielded a velvety smooth, rich texture, with the buttery, round flavors imparted by the olive oil perfectly pairing with the soft, chocolatey notes of the coffee.”

The Starbucks Oleato platform made its debut in Italy beginning Feb. 22 and will be introduced to select international markets this spring, starting with Southern California. Later, Japan, the Middle East and the U.K. will also be introduced to the olive oil-infused coffee beverages.  

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

Monday, February 27, 2023

Now Will Everyone Want to Get Married in Taco Bell’s Metaverse at Least Once


Steven Johnson Grocerant Guru®  at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions® wants to know if you have visited Taco Bell’s Metaverse Wedding site. Ok, he admits he not interested in getting married any time soon.  However, if you are there just might be a fresh place to help you do the planning.  Yes, that place is Taco Bell.

Say what?  Ok I admit for those of us of a certain age it is laughable.  However, for digital natives yes, Gen Z and Millennials it’s a fresh, welcoming space, filled with options that are nonjudgmental.  


Taco Bells marketing team says that “Planning a wedding in the metaverse allowed for the maximum level of creativity and customization to authentically tailor the event to the couple.”  Here is some of what they had to say:

“Taco Bells are ringing as the lucky couple who will be tying the knot at Taco Bell’s metaverse wedding is unveiled. Lifelong Taco Bell fans Sheel Mohnot and Amruta Godbole said ‘I do’ on February 24 with an out-of-this-realm wedding celebration in Decentraland. 

Winning out over 300 couples who applied to win the Taco Bell metaverse wedding of their dreams, Sheel, a co-founder of Better Tomorrow Ventures, a venture capital firm and Amruta, a lawyer at Instagram, embody what it means to love and live más. No strangers to the joys of virtual partnership, the Bay-area based couple’s story started after a mutual friend connected the pair and they shared an hours-long phone call where they learned about each other’s lives and upbringings – both of which included a passion for Taco Bell. The pair share an Indian heritage as well as a vegetarian lifestyle, making the eatery’s vegetarian options tried-and-true staples in their everyday lives. It was only fitting that one of their first IRL dates took place over a romantic beach-front meal at Taco Bell’s Pacifica location, which has been named the “world’s most beautiful Taco Bell.” During a trip to Mexico, the lovestruck couple were engaged over a meal of tacos, and the rest is soon to make Taco Bell and metaverse history.

“When we heard about the contest, we knew it was the perfect opportunity for us. Now that we're getting closer to the wedding day, we're excited to see the vision come to life,” says bride-to-be Amruta Godbole. “We're really looking forward to sharing the experience with our friends and family from all over the globe - many of whom may not have been able to attend in-person. Some of them still don’t totally understand the idea of a metaverse wedding, but once they knock back a couple of virtual bottles of Baja Blasts, I think they'll get in the spirit.”

And for groom-to-be, Sheel Mohnot, Taco Bell holds many memories dating all the way back to his childhood, so the wedding is truly a full-circle moment: “Growing up, Taco Bell was one of the only places we'd eat out and going there was a special occasion. Now, while eating out isn’t a luxury in the same way - I somehow still find myself coming back to my familiar Taco Bell favorites. We are excited to be a part of the Taco Bell family, as well as experience things we’d never get to do in an IRL wedding - like ride an elephant to the venue!”

Sheel and Amruta worked closely with both Taco Bell and their partners to plan an other-worldly event in Decentraland – a 3D browser-based platform allowing shared virtual exploration. The wedding pushes past previous platform limitations with never before seen elements that Decentraland users will be able to view even after the wedding for a limited time. The groom’s avatar will ride into the venue on an elephant in a customary baraat procession, paying homage to the duo’s Indian roots. Additionally, after saying “I do,” the couple will unveil a kissing emote in the metaverse, specifically designed for the occasion. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Taco Bell wedding without food! Guests will also bear witness to the largest virtual Cinnabon Delights® cake that the brand has ever created.

Planning a wedding in the metaverse allowed for the maximum level of creativity and customization to authentically tailor the event to the couple. This includes a notable Master of Ceremonies who will facilitate the wedding. For this memorable occasion, it will be none other than Kal Penn, an American actor who shares the couple’s Indian heritage and is thrilled to play a vital role in Sheel and Amruta’s matrimonial journey.

Additional customized wedding details include personalized wearables, or avatar outfits, for the couple and their invited guests. Adding to the list of cultural celebrations, the couple will be married under a mandap which forms the sacred space where the couple will say their vows. Under the mandap will be a custom agni, a sacred fire involved in some Indian wedding rituals, designed to look like a hot sauce packet set to flame – merging the best of the couple's culture and Taco Bell’s signature flare.

In true digital-forward fashion, once the ceremony has concluded, the reception space will open for the couple, their invited guests and public attendees to kick off the party. After enjoying their first dance as a married couple, Amruta will throw a hot sauce bouquet which will turn into an interactive Bouquet Toss Game, with bragging rights as the reward. Both the public who attend the Decentraland wedding and those who visit the venue after the celebration can participate in this fun competition. Additional activities include showing off their moves on the Taco Bell dance floor alongside the Sauce Packet Dancers, snapping some pictures in a photo booth and hitting up the Mtn Dew Baja Blast Station. For those looking to enjoy Taco Bell IRL, guests at the public reception will be able to visit the reception’s food table and scan a QR code that links to an offer and a menu curated by the couple featuring their favorite vegetarian dishes for consumers to purchase.

On the big day, 100 of the couple’s invited guests will be able to enjoy the wedding ceremony first-hand through the eyes of their avatars, where they’ll even have the chance to meet the Master of Ceremonies, Kal Penn.

The public (was) able to watch the live wedding on screens set up in secondary realms within Decentraland - visit TacoBell.com/metaverse-wedding to learn more and access the public wedding space on the day of the wedding. After the private baraat procession, the ceremony space will open up in Decentraland’s secondary realms where the public can explore the venue, socialize and watch a slideshow about the couple via their avatars. Following the private nuptials on the screens, the reception space will open up for a virtual celebration of a lifetime.

For those who are not able to attend the ceremony in avatar form, popular Twitch streamer and Taco Bell superfan Jordan Payton will be livestreaming his POV of the event so viewers can follow along on their screens. Once the private ceremony is over, the public ceremony space will provide a gateway into the public reception that will be open for fans to enter and kick off the festivities.

Leading up to the wedding day, there will be an open wedding registry on the Taco Bell Discord channel on February 22 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. PST. Fans can claim drops inspired by the couple’s favorite Taco Bell items in the discord channel for digital gift cards and Taco Bell will gift the couple with some items from their curated menu selections too. The registry will function on a traditional first-come, first-serve basis so once the gift has been claimed, the item will no longer be up to gift, so act fast.

As an extra special wedding present for the bride and groom, Taco Bell will be throwing the newlyweds a private reception at the Pacifica Cantina in the near-future to close the loop on their journey to marriage in one of the places where it all began. Then, the couple plans to take off to New Zealand later in the year for the honeymoon of their dreams.

Taco Bell’s metaverse wedding is brought to life in collaboration with creative agencies Deutsch LA, The Electric Factory and livestream production company Mobeon. For more information about how to participate in the out-of-this-realm wedding, please visit TacoBell.com/metaverse-wedding. Follow along on the couple’s journey to the mandap through their social channels: Sheel – Instagram and Twitter, Amruta – Instagram and Twitter.

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

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Are You Picking-Up the Right Food Sales Success Clues


Success does leave clues and if you want your fresh prepared Grocerant niche food brand to have distinctive differentiated messaging and positioning below are 10 clues from Foodservice Solutions® Grocerant Guru®:  

1.     Purpose.   Do you have contemporized customer fresh food relevance? Why you are there?  The most successful brands are inclusive, include values greater than themselves. A lifestyle, a philosophy, an emotion a point in time today that means “better for you is better for all”.

2.     A story. Most major brands have a story. Examples: 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. What is the story behind you grocerant niche fresh food?

3.    Consumer interaction. When you are first entering the grocerant niche , 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 you when you enter the consumer ‘awareness, acceptance, and adoption phase.

4.   Trust. 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 Toyota today? Maybe so, but how long do they have to rebuild that trust?

5.   Consistency. When a consumer chooses a product or service because of brand association, he or she is buying an expectation. 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. Our Grocerant ScoreCards can help you get on track.

6.       Differentiation. Expectation is often borne of differentiation. Many brands offer products and services that are commodities but they're successful in developing some differentiation for their products and services that consumers are sold on. Differentiation does not mean different it means familiar but with a grocerant niche fresh food twist.

7.   Imitators. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and you're probably not a 'brand' until you have competitors trying to copy you. Do what you do best and lead your fresh food grocerant space, don’t follow.

8.    Market leadership. Top brands are usually looked at as leaders in the markets they compete in. Own the space, and understand why you do.

9.    Grow. The best brands are flexible and capable of reshaping and reinventing themselves and their messages over time. Consumers are not static!  Your brand must be dynamic and grow, change and adapt over time. Know where the grocerant space is moving and move with it.

10.   A strong marketing presence. The information super highway is evolving; your message must follow the traffic.  Don’t get stuck on the road less traveled.

Are you trapped doing what you have always done and doing it the same way? Interested in learning how Foodservice Solutions FIVE Ps of Food Marketing can edify your retail food brand while creating a platform for consumer convenient meal participationdifferentiation and individualization?

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

Saturday, February 25, 2023

Restaurant Food Sales Channels of Distribution Evolving


Where are you selling food?  That question and continued discovery around that question has been a key undercurrent driving success of restaurants that are trying to evolve with consumers. According to Steven Johnson Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions®.

When your customer moves all food retailers need to move with them.  Consumers are dynamic not static and restaurants, convenience stores, delis, and grocery store’s all risk capitulating year over year same store customer counts if they don’t evolve fast enough.

Restaurant gift cards are an avenue of fresh food distribution at reflect just how fast the consumers is evolving.  In a new report from Paytronix titled;  the Paytronix Restaurant Gift Card Report: 2023, which finds that restaurants have moved on from the pandemic, but face changes thanks to inflation. Those changes affect both how restaurants sell cards and how consumers purchase them. Here let’s take a look at some of the key findings in the report:


1.        Today $50 and $100 are the most common cards sold

2.        Restaurant gift card revenue is up 6% year over year; total cards sold is down 2%.

3.        Guests are spending more by purchasing higher value cards.

4.        Average dollars loaded per gift card increased 8% from 2021.

5.        Digital cards outperformed physical cards in terms of value, with the average digital card loaded $82 more at a fine-dining establishment than a comparable physical card.

6.        Third-party retail sales grew, while in-store sales dropped, indicating a channel shift.


In 2022, dollars spent on gift cards rose 6% over 2021, a high-water mark for gift card value, yet the overall number of gift cards sold fell. That meant people loaded on more value, choosing more cards of over $25 and fewer that are under $10. Consumers also showed a preference for digital gift cards, not only by purchasing more, but loading them with higher values than on their physical counterparts.

Paytronix Strategy & Analytics Director Kirstin Lynch, stated, “Gift card purchasing appears to mirror that of loyalty guests. Our research shows that loyalty guests’ checks match inflation. From the beginning of 2020 to the present day, restaurant loyalty guest check size grew in tandem with menu prices.”

While some of this change can also be attributed to customer preference and an overall shift in consumer behavior from quick-service restaurants (QSRs) to full-service restaurants (FSRs), some is driven by restaurant marketers.

Card sales also showed a shift toward FSRs, with that segment showing significant growth, even as QSRs, the segment that best weathered the pandemic, showed a 5% drop in revenue. This trend was particularly apparent for fine-dining restaurants.

“Fine-dining gift card sales have not only recovered completely from the pandemic they’ve also been the only concept to see an increase over 2019 numbers. This indicates a channel shift in consumer preferences – as guests emerge from the pandemic, they prefer to gift experiences at fine-dining establishments,” said Lynch.

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 24, 2023

Amazon Go Not Sustainable Yet


At the intersection of fresh food retail and the consumer is a fledgling concept by Amazon called Amazon Go. After spending billions on Whole Food and stumbling, they rolled out Amazon Fresh a grocery store with technology and fresh food but it has failed to meet or exceed consumers expectations as well. So, they went back to the Urban Amazon Go concept and are trying to find a universal template they can leverage for dramatic success.  Will they be able to disrupt this space with success.  Well not yet, not today.

In the minds-eye of Steven Johnson Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions® when it comes to fresh food retail Amazon has:

1.       Outstanding Grocerant Niche Fresh Prepared Food, Heat-N-Meals, and Meal Kits

2.       Great Data on Pricing Elasticity

3.       Great Data on Buying Patterns by Time

4.       Great Focus on Sustainable Packaging

5.       Great Technology

6.       Great Financial Backing

7.       Endless Ability to Experiment

8.       No Ability to understand the relationship between consumers intellectual quotient and consumers emotional quotient.

It is easy to see how ‘technology forwarded’ consumers like all of the technology embedded in each of Amazon’s fresh food retail concepts.  After the billions spent on fresh food sector concepts, new concepts, and revitalizing concepts they have not yet found the sweat spot of success in that space.    

The disconnect is clearly in the space between the consumers intellectual quotient (IQ) and consumers emotional quotient (EQ). Amazon has all of the parts they are simply missing the ribbon that ties them all together according to Johnson.

Amazon has proven itself as the preeminent omnichannel retailer in the world. In the fresh food space concept after concept the price, value, service equilibrium is being disrupted by the lack of understanding of consumers emotional relationship with fresh food. Simply put they don’t get the EQ of the consumer with respect to buying fresh food.

There is a blance between shopping in the store and online where the brand must tie both the EQ and IQ to the same place in the minds-eye of the consumer. Omnichannel consumers are more likely to be Millennials and have to be Amazons primary target customers. 

Unfortunately for Amazon they must believe that by introducing new technology to solve legacy fresh food retail pain points that is all the ‘discovery’ Millennials need.  They are wrong.  Millennials expect the technology to save time, and a seamless shopping experience, however they still want fresh food discovery according to Johnson.

The fact is whether a customer shops Whole Foods, Amazon Fresh, or Amazon Go they will find fresh full flavored grocerant niche Ready-2-Eat or Heat-N-Eat fresh prepared food.  Simply put 99 out of 100 visits the food is very good. They have little problem with fresh food quality.  However that is not enough to sustain a fresh food customer over time.  

Amazon has all of the parts from sustainable packaging, menu diversity, and brand messaging what is missing is an over lapping relationship with consumers food space emotional quotient. Don’t let you consumers emotion dangle on the edge.  Invite them in!

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

In a Battle for Share of Stomach

Don't Forget the

Consumers Emotional Quotient