Wednesday, May 31, 2023

What’s more Important Food or Technology for Restaurants Today


At the intersection of meals, menu’s, food sold, and food marketing restaurants are increasingly being pressured by customers to eliminate all pain points that may slow down service or hamper ordering the family’s meal.

According to Steven Johnson Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions® “if your restaurant looks more like yesterday than todays or tomorrow’s restaurants your year over year customer counts are more likely trending down year over year and that is not a good thing.”

Time and time again we read how successful restaurants are investing in technology more than ever to optimize their delivery channels and maximize profits. Now according to the latest QSR Operational Index released by Delaget 2022 QSR Operational Index includes the latest findings and trends in sales, delivery channel growth, losses, staffing, customer experience, and more. Among the key findings highlighted in the report:

1.        Restaurant delivery channels have grown by 1,343% since 2019. Third-party delivery sales have been on an upward trajectory in most states since 2020, with the East Coast leading the charge, reflecting the growing demand for convenient and reliable meal delivery options spurred by the pandemic and the adoption of third-party delivery aggregators by operators across the nation.

2.        Counter sales in 2022 hit 14.44%, an increase of 51.9% over last year, but still down dramatically when compared to pre-pandemic rates of 34.82% in 2018 and 29.68% in 2019.

3.        Average labor costs as a percent of sales are up 6% year over year.

4.        Guest checks for delivery have been consistently higher than other channels over the last three years. In 2022, delivery checks were 63% higher than drive-thru and counter checks on average.


Jason Tober, CEO of Delaget, stated, “After a disruptive past few years, restaurant operators are leveraging technology more than ever to solve new challenges, optimize their delivery channels, and make data-driven decisions to drive growth and maximize profits during a time of increasing margin pressure,”... “Our goal with this annual report is to provide restaurant operators with the data they need to benchmark their performance and to equip them with the tools and insights they need to improve performance and optimize their businesses.”

The simple fact is food is always FIRST!

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

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Food Marketers Need Phone Food Marketing


Consumers are dynamic not static and today that means smartphones are fast becoming the food marketing platform of choice according to Steven Johnson, Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions®.

In a battle for share of stomach C-stores, restaurants, bodegas, and grocery store delis all need a fresh focus on smartphones. Art Sebastian, vice president of digital experiences at Casey’s, stated, “Digital engagement is more important now than ever because that is the way people live… “People expect to digitally engage with restaurants, c-stores and grocery stores, and as a channel, we can’t be left out of that.”

Today, digital engagement for grocerant niche Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat fresh food space is not just about getting customers onto the lot, but also getting them into the store and influencing their purchases once they’re there. Today that includes digital signage at the forecourt, digital signage in the store — such as cooler screens and foodservice menu boards, mobile apps, mobile marketing, loyalty programs and more.

Kevin Rice, chief marketing officer at San Luis Obispo, Calif.-based Hathway, stated, “To be successful with digital, c-stores need to think more holistically about consumer experiences and avoid the shiny object of the week,”.  

Rice continued, Digital properties include websites, apps and digital signage, as well as channels such as email, SMS, push notifications, and in-app messaging. And it all needs to connect seamlessly with loyalty and marketing technology, so everything works together….

“Everything has to work consistently and seamlessly across every interaction and touchpoint for your digital strategy to be effective,” he said. “The industry is convenience, but it’s also the expectation of the customer, and this needs to be part of the digital strategy.”

How well do you know your customer? Consider that one of the biggest benefits of interacting digitally with consumers is the data that can be captured, which can then help c-store operators make decisions on products, merchandising and marketing. Capturing and analyzing this data must be part of an overall digital strategy.

Casey’s Sebastian added, “For us, when you engage with a customer digitally, you are building data and that is one of the most powerful aspects we have at the moment”. “This might sound too simple, but our loyalty program is really doing the job for us,” .. “We have 4.3 million members and if they use it, they have the mobile app, so we can send push notifications. This has become the leading driver of in-store conversions.”

So, Casey’s has been collecting data through its loyalty program long enough that it can now send personalized offers to individuals based on their past behavior, the time of day they typically shop the store, and other metrics. The chain can also track if those offers are opened and redeemed.

Sebastian explained, “We now have enough data on members that we know X customer typically buys a whole pizza every week, so we can app push at day 6 to close the gap on the purchase,”. “Also, on Saturday at 10 a.m., I can push an offer for a $1 medium coffee to be redeemed that day and we can track the conversion rate of all customers who received the app push to see who buys.”

Rice went on to say, many c-stores offering pay at the pump via a mobile app can utilize this type of push notification to also get customers from the forecourt into the store. Once in-store, it often results in them purchasing more than just the deal offered...“When filling up the gas tank, customers are a captive audience, so give them a free cup of coffee to get them into the store, or offer a car wash coupon, or anything else you might have available to them,” … “Give them something to get into the door and they will probably buy something else as well.”

Don’t stop just because they come in the door. The same goes for digital engagement once a customer is in the store. With consumers spending so much time on their mobile phones these days, utilizing this to communicate to them allows retailers to create a personal connection. When someone is logged into an app, the c-store retailer can know they are there using geolocation, and many have access to past purchase history and preferences, so they can send a relevant push notification to entice them to buy.

Casey’s uses Salesforce’s Einstein artificial intelligence (AI) product to turn its sales data into business insights, and the chain is optimizing message send times using AI. Casey’s is also segmenting loyalty members by a variety of metrics, such as when they open messages, to maximize open rates, Sebastian noted.

“We do messaging as an app push, an in-app message in the app mailbox, SMS for those who signed up, and email — all depending on what a person responds best to,” according to Sebastian.

Many retailers are also focusing on digital signage and menu boards to engage customers and encourage more sales. This has become more than simply flashing products or promotions on a screen. With today’s technology, c-stores can cater the promotions they display to time of day or seasonality — and this includes kiosks.

Personalization and customization are a major area of focus for Casey’s is making sure its in-store digital screens and menu boards are personalized and showing the most relevant content at the right time. Sebastian’s goal is to be even more personalized in this area, targeting what audience they are talking to, what day of the week, etc.

“We have digital menu boards, but there is work to do to personalize them and make them more relevant as well,”

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

Monday, May 29, 2023

Restaurants, C-Stores, Deli’s It’s Not too late to start with Online Ordering


When you think about selling a meal or meal component, have you continued to say no way, not at all, or I tried it and it did not work for me? Steven Johnson Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions® wants you to rethink your position. Ask yourself why us and why now?

Here are some insights and research excerpts from our friends at Paytronix. That will help you understand why many restaurants, c-stores, and delis utilize online ordering, and why it might be time for you to test the waters.

“While restaurants, namely quick service (QSRs), have embraced digital ordering, not all convenience stores have taken the leap. Early adopters, such as United Dairy Farmers (UDF), are discovering that adding order and delivery to their digital guest engagement platform is a great way to increase sales on high-margin in-store merchandise, such as fresh-baked items and signature ice cream treats. 

But adding digital ordering doesn’t stand alone. It must be considered as part of a much larger digital guest engagement ecosystem. 

During the pandemic, digital orders emerged as a key part of the mix and are now expected by most customers. The nature of digital orders has changed as well. While delivery was king before and during the height of the pandemic, more recent data indicates that takeout orders now dominate this digital channel, with numbers even higher than they were pre-pandemic. Takeout jumped from approximately 35 percent of orders in January 2020 to nearly 64 percent now. 

What’s more, to meet customers where they are, brands must have a mobile app, and that app must work perfectly with loyalty rewards, your messaging platform and your CRM (customer relationship management). 

Sticking a Toe in the Water

As more and more c-stores expand their physical footprint to accommodate bakery and hot grill items, moving these fresh food items has become a big priority. Like QSRs, c-stores are gravitating toward a takeout model.

C-stores that facilitate this upswing in takeout orders through third-party services are finding a new, receptive client base waiting for them. Google Ordering is one example, with merchants who implement Google Ordering achieving a 0.08 percent lift in orders.

For UDF, which has 170 retail locations throughout the greater Cincinnati area as well as Dayton and Columbus, Ohio, online ordering was a natural extension of its existing U-Drive Plus loyalty program. With loyalty members driving 37 percent of overall sales, UDF welcomed online orders via its website or mobile app. Customers can now order ahead for a coffee and freshly baked doughnuts, and then pick up their breakfast on the way to work. 

Digital ordering also makes it easier for fuel buyers to get in and out of UDF stores and enjoy the brand’s growing assortment of “Oven Side” bakery products, hot food and ice cream treats. Customers are encouraged to shop in whatever way best meets their needs. Whether it’s supporting an in-store visit, an at-home delivery or a curbside pickup, the UDF guest engagement platform captures each transaction and builds a comprehensive view of guest preferences.

This further allows UDF to segment guests by fuel buyers vs. merchandise buyers, or even lapsed fuel buyers vs. those with high fuel buying frequency. Once UDF knows how frequently a guest visits and what they are purchasing, the retailer can create a personalized cadence. 

UDF can generate a 1-to-1 win back campaign or a 1-to-1 visit challenge for individuals. It can experiment with incentives — will a guest respond to Red Bull or Monster? — and continually finetune its loyalty campaigns so that they are always delivering value to customers.

Smart brands are aligning their guest engagement platform to bring online ordering together with loyalty, mobile apps, CRM and messaging. Many will face the temptation to go with a best-of-breed approach and find just the right point solution for each component. The challenge with that approach is that if the pieces aren’t perfectly aligned, it can create operational inefficiencies that will act as a barrier to achieving the most out of the solution. With today’s demanding guests, it is best to create the easiest path to the strongest level of guest engagement. “

Are you looking for a new partnership to drive sales? Are you ready for some fresh ideations? Do your food marketing tactics look more like yesterday than tomorrow?  Visit for more information or contact: Remember success does leave clues and we just may have the clue you need to propel your continued success.

Sunday, May 28, 2023

All Food Retailers Need to Remember Earth Day is More than just One Day a Year


Time and time again restaurants, convenience stores, service delis, and all fresh food retailers need to remember that consumers continue to have a growing top-of-mind awareness of all things sustainable.  Within the grocerant niche the ‘halo’ of better-for-you is a driving factor in the path to purchase according to Steven Johnson Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions®.

Here is the thing, despite ongoing food price inflation and related economic pressures, consumers are considering the environmental impacts of their food choices. The team at Foodservice Solutions® believe you should read or reread this report and you may just consider call Kearney for more, here is some of what a 2023 report from Kearney found:

"Climavorism" — defined as actively making food choices based on climate impacts with the intent to benefit the planet — is a growing concept and lifestyle. According to Kearney's "2023 Earth Day Survey" of 1,000 U.S. consumers saw awareness of the environmental impacts of their food choices significantly increase since the market research firm’s 2020 survey.

"Being a climavore isn't as much about what you eat as it is about why you make your food choices. Climavores can be vegans, vegetarians or omnivores," noted Corey Chafin, partner in Kearney's consumer practice and the study's principal author.

In the 2023 survey, approximately 42 percent of respondents said they "always/nearly always" consider the environment when making a buying decision. This is a historic high and an 18 percentage point increase over 2022, a clear signal that Kearney's conclusion last year that climavorism was growing from the "consumer fringe" to the heart of the mass market is becoming a reality, the firm said.

"We see a clear opportunity for food producers across the value chain to capitalize on the growing momentum of climavorism and be a first mover in the market," observed Chafin.

While the survey's respondents are looking to change their buying patterns to positively impact the environment, they clearly lay the burden for that change at the foot of food manufacturers. When asked who should be responsible for driving faster adoption of environmentally friendly food selections, 42 percent of respondents said "producers."

When then asked to specifically identify what segment of the food value chain ought to be responsible for these changes, 54 percent of consumers indicated they thought it was largely a problem that should be addressed by food manufacturers. These findings present opportunities for food manufacturers to "do well by doing good," according to Kearney.

"Consumers expect food companies to take action," said Moritz Breuninger, principal in Kearney's consumer practice and the study's co-author. "This allows food companies that are already pursuing strategies to meet Scope 3 targets to hit two birds with one stone."

Kearney's "2023 Earth Day Survey" also contains four plausible scenarios exploring how climavorism might scale faster through consumer demand, federal regulation and legislation, food industry leadership, or by climate changes that will have a drastic impact on what crops are available beginning less than a decade from now. The full report is available here.

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

Saturday, May 27, 2023

Casey’s General Store Evolving with Consumers


Grocerant niche Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat fresh prepared food continues to garner customers, drive top-line sales, and bottom-line profits. Regular readers of this blog have been reading about the continued success that Casey’s General Stores have had ever since the first test experiment they had with pizza.  What a 15-year run it has been.

According to Steven Johnson Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions®, “Casey’s has become as dynamic as their customers.  Caseys was one of the first convenience store chains to understand that their consumers were not static.  They understood that if you do not evolve with your customer’s, you will lose them.”

Linda Lisanti wrote a piece for CSNews that was outstanding on how the Casey’s is moving with consumers, what they learned, that consumers is very small towns are evolving much faster than many might believe.  The team at Foodservice Solutions® thinks you should read what Linda wrote. 

Thank you, Linda for another great article, here it is:

Art Sebastian of Casey’s General Stores Inc. recently got a change in job title, going from vice president of digital experiences to vice president of omnichannel marketing. While this may seem like a minor change, it is indicative of a much larger transformation that's currently underway at the nation's third-largest convenience store chain.

"If you think about it in simple terms, we spent our first 50 years as a company in a single channel. The guests came to our store, they turned left or right; one way to shop us," said Sebastian, who joined the Ankeny-based chain of 2,500-plus stores in 2018.

Under his leadership over the last four and a half years, Casey's has evolved into a multichannel company that gives its guests multiple ways to transact with the brand, including a proprietary mobile app, a website, and third-party delivery services such as DoorDash and Uber Eats.

"Where we're evolving to now moving forward is omnichannel. And omnichannel is this seamless integration of branding and messaging across digital and physical touchpoints, enabling a cohesive marketing experience wherever our guest goes," Sebastian explained. 

Do You Want a Larger Share of Wallet

Larger Share of Stomach

A Chicago native, he has been pleasantly surprised by how quickly Casey's guests have embraced technology. The chain operates in 16 states and half of its stores are in towns with a population of 5,000 or less. "I will bust the myth that rural America doesn't use technology. They do. And that's proven to us statistically in the fact that 6.3 million rewards members have downloaded our app and elected to engage with us digitally," he said.

The retailer partners with Punchh for its industry-leading Casey's Rewards program, which has a monthly active member base of 50 percent. For customer relationship management, Casey's works with Salesforce to maintain its marketing cloud through which all outbound messaging is sent, and its customer data platform (CDP) where all customer data is unified and organized.

"Our goal is to acquire guests through the marketing funnel. And as we move them through the funnel, we're going to engage them and retain them and then move them all the way to becoming a best guest, which is our rewards member that subscribes to our marketing channels and interacts with us online, in the store and at the pump," Sebastian said.

Through its CDP, Casey's is able to know everything about the behavior of its rewards members — from how they interact with an email, to what they browse on the retailer's website and mobile app, to how and when they transact in the stores.

The next step in its journey to omnichannel marketing is personalization. However, getting to the point of sending one personalized message to one consumer is a multistep process.

"Anyone who says they're all the way to personalization is fibbing a little bit," Sebastian acknowledged. "In marketing, [there's] mass marketing; one message to all. Then, there's segmented marketing, which I would say is one to some. And then, there's that full grail where it's one message to one consumer. So, it's a spectrum of personalization and we're sitting in the middle in a big way, with an early start into this one-to-one [space]."

For instance, now when Casey's sends an email to a guest, they are addressed by name — what Sebastian calls "the simplest form of personalization." And the company is leveraging artificial intelligence to understand what marketing channel each guest responds to the most.

"Maybe you ignore emails from us, but you open up SMSs [texts] and click through. And maybe, as we've learned and got to know you, we realized that you opened those SMSs at 8 p.m., where a million other people open it at 7:30 a.m. And so, we have that piece. And then, we know that Linda responds to pepperoni pizza visuals, where the rest of the world responds to supreme [pizza]. So, we find a way to make it tailored and relevant to you as an individual," he explained.

In addition, as Casey's studies its guests and learns more about their purchase behaviors, the retailer is now able to uncover "automated triggers" that can be used to engage each guest and entice more purchases from them. The more data insights available, the more opportunities at hand.

"We know that Linda has this behavior where she orders pizza every seven and a half days. We can begin engaging you appropriately at six days to make sure we're top of mind and you're aware of whatever the latest promotion is. And what we're seeing by doing that level of marketing — this triggered automation — is we're closing the days between purchase cycle," shared Sebastian.  

Ultimately, Casey's omnichannel journey is expected to result in more share of wallet for the retailer, more share of stomach and more share of mind with consumers.

Foodservice Solutions® team is here to help you drive top line sales and bottom-line profits. Are you looking a customer ahead? Visit for more information or contact: Remember success does leave clues and we just may the clue you need to propel your continued success.