Thursday, November 30, 2023

Alert Gen Z and Millennials Still Go Out and Drink

We all know that the world has changed.  Sometimes food retailers get ahead of themselves and throw in the towel if everything is not working as they had planned. Currently the recreational use of cannabis has been legalized in 24 states, three U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia. My friends that’s not the end of the world.  That does not mean that you bar sales have gone up in smoke!

In a world riddled with economic uncertainties, the dining industry is undergoing a remarkable transformation, propelled by Gen Z’s insatiable appetite for unique experiences and penchant for affordable, small indulgent food and drink discovery.

Yes, food and beverage discovery.  Regular reads of this blog know that Steven Johnson Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions® has stated time and time again that mix and match meal component bundling is the mainstay driving continued customer migration and adoption of Grocerant niche Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat fresh prepared food in every sector of food retail today.

You know that, Gen Z, the largest and most diverse generation with a staggering spending power of $360 billion, craves diversity and personality in their dining experiences. In the post-pandemic world, Gen Z is emerging with a fervent desire for experiences that go beyond the ordinary or offer a respite from the daily grind.

Unique beverages fit the bill perfectly. Craft drinks are a gateway for exploration and indulgence on a budget.  Artisanal lemonades, cold brew coffee, Boba tea are no longer niche treats — they’re the drinks defining Gen Z’s dining experience.

A new report from Botrista, whose DrinkBots automate the production of upscale craft beverages, shows that it’s not just about the drink itself. For a generation who views food and beverage as part of their identity, specialty options are an opportunity for self-expression and indulgence. More than “social lubrication,” as Natalie Battaglia, influencer and founder of The Mindful Mocktail, calls them, drinks have become not only social catalysts but also a healthful indulgence. According to analysis firm Cassandra’s 2022 survey, more than half of Gen Zers believe that what they eat is indicative of who they are as a person.

Interestingly, these new craft beverages do not seem to cannibalize sales of old favorites. For example, a California rice bowl concept witnessed a remarkable 59% surge in sales of carbonated soft drinks after it introduced premium craft beverages made by Botrista’s DrinkBots.  Similarly, a New York-based Mediterranean concept experienced a 14% increase in carbonated soft drink sales after it introduced Botrista’s DrinkBots.  The report found that craft beverages prompt additional customers to order beverages and that this, in turn, prompts other people in the same group to order beverages as well.  So even traditional carbonated soft drinks benefit. 

So restaurants have a chance to capitalize. By expanding drink menus with beverage experts and technology, they can cater to the adventurous Gen Z palate while keeping loyal customers happy. They can increase appeal and sales opportunities for legacy beverages as craft drinks become their partners in attracting and engaging this new cohort of consumers.

As a testament to this transformative shift, the National Restaurant Association projects the food service industry to reach $997 billion in sales for 2023. This figure represents a remarkable 11% increase compared to 2022 and a significant leap from the $789 billion recorded in 2021. In order to capture a slice of this growth, restaurant owners must understand the unique needs and relationship Gen Z has with dining.

The traditional beverage industry now stands at the threshold of a craft drink revolution. Specialty options invite a new generation to enjoy conventional soft drinks as part of a personalized, social experience. The trend is clear: creatively blending traditional and artisanal drinks is the recipe for success.

The grocerant niche is not only surviving but thriving, driven by the insatiable thirst of Gen Z for exceptional experiences, memorable moments, and craft drinks that tell their stories. In this world where the market may be uncertain, one thing remains clear – the future of dining is vibrant and innovative, and it’s served in a glass. So, let’s raise a glass to a world where craft beverages are keys to unforgettable experiences and shared moments! Yes, millennials and Gen Z still DRINK!

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: FacebookLinkedIn, or Twitter 

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Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Take-Out Restaurant Meals Were Projected Way UP for Thanksgiving Were Your Sales Up?


Gen Z and Millennials had time off during the Thanksgiving break and they did not want to stay home and cook and or wash dishes all weekend.  That according to Steven Johnson Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions®.

Once again, it’s all about convenience and cost savings.  In a new study by Popmenu found one-third of consumers (32%) plan to order takeout/delivery for Thanksgiving dinner this year while 17% plan to dine in person at a restaurant. Consumers under the age of 35 are the most likely to lean on restaurants with 42% planning to order takeout/delivery for Turkey Day and 20% planning to dine on-premise.

Let’ see what they found and Why Consumers Are Dining Out:

Consumers are relying on restaurants to supply their entire meal or certain dishes as they celebrate Thanksgiving. When asked why:

·         64% said it’s just easier

·         35% don’t feel like cooking

·         35% prefer professionally cooked food

·         24% estimate that it’s cheaper to order from restaurants than to buy all the ingredients needed to cook Thanksgiving dinner

What They’re Serving

While turkey is, of course, the star of the show, many consumers are featuring other main courses in their Thanksgiving spread. When asked what they plan to serve, consumers reported:

·         77% – turkey

·         42% – ham

·         27% – steak

·         27% – fish

·         20% – vegetarian options

What They Can Expect

Consumers will encounter more digitally-enabled experiences as they interact with restaurants this year. Restaurants partnering with Popmenu are running special online ordering events with limited-time menus featuring all the Thanksgiving fixings for pickup/delivery—multiple restaurants have already booked $10,000 or more in online orders.

With phones ringing off the hook, restaurants are also using AI phone answering technology to field calls, promote specials, and send links to place orders or make reservations.

Popmenu experts offer the following tips to ensure Thanksgiving runs smoothly:

1.       Do your homework. A quick Google search, phone call, or visit to a preferred restaurant’s website can guide you on menu options (with photos), portion sizes, allergens, and required budget for your party size.

2.       Order NOW and directly. Higher demand means restaurants will meet their order limits sooner and preferred pickup times will fill up faster. Order directly from the restaurant’s website to ensure your order gets in and to avoid third-party fees.

3.       Reserve a table yesterday. Popular eateries will book up early. Third-party reservation sites like OpenTable can keep you posted on what’s available in your area.

4.       Be prepared for delays. Even with specific pickup/ delivery windows and reservations, factor in a longer wait for your food (i.e., don’t skip the appetizer).

“More consumers are trading in their aprons for the convenience, taste, and potential cost-savings of having restaurants cook Thanksgiving dinner for them,” says Brendan Sweeney, CEO and Co-founder of Popmenu. “Ideally, you want to place online orders and book reservations a few weeks in advance, but you can still find special menus and deals this week. Check out restaurants’ websites and act quickly.” 

In addition to Thanksgiving, restaurants will play an important part in other popular holidays. One in four consumers (26%) plan to dine at or order takeout/delivery from restaurants for Christmas this year while 36% plan to do so on New Year’s Eve.

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

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Hello Once Again Non-Traditional Dining Formats Driving Growth


Just in case you have not been reading our blog.  Yes, we know that blogging is old fashion but so is elevating a foundation of knowledge.  Grocerant niche mix & match meal component bunding continues to drive top line sales and bottom-line profits in all sectors of retail foodservice according to Steven Johnson Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions®.

Here is an just one example of how an award- winning Mediterranean fast-casual dining franchise, The Great Greek Mediterranean Grill, is taking advantage of the undercurrent of change driving customer migration within the restaurant sector.  The Great Greek Mediterranean Grill launched three new non- traditional dining formats developed to support the brand’s aggressive accelerated expansion plan. Including a to-go-only restaurant, a digital kitchen, and special venue buildouts designed for airports, universities, stadiums, and more, these new formats signify the brand’s commitment to innovation and guest satisfaction as well as its dedication to franchise owners.

Bob Andersen, President of The Great Greek Mediterranean Grill, stated, “The development of our three new non-traditional formats began almost two years ago as we sought to identify changes in the habits and behaviors of our customers. Guest satisfaction has always been paramount to us, so we wanted to implement innovations that enhanced their overall experience while driving sales and profitability for our franchise owners,”

Anderson continued, “The new formats combine the best of both worlds for our brand; they offer the convenience of on-the-go dining for our customers while also giving existing and prospective franchise owners the opportunity to more cost effectively seize opportunities in prime areas while capturing more market share and increasing brand exposure.”

So, in addition to the convenience of off-premises dining, The Great Greek Mediterranean Grill’s new non- traditional formats will expand the brand’s delivery and catering capabilities. They include:

§  The Great Greek To Go: Guests can quickly pick up a meal with this takeout-only format in busy retail and shopping areas. Compared to The Great Greek Mediterranean Grill’s standard 30-45- seat, 1,700-2,000-square-foot dine-in model, The Great Greek To Go features a footprint between 500 and 900 square feet with a service counter and minimal to no indoor The first Great Greek To Go opened last month at 8900 Baltimore Ave. in College Park, Maryland, minutes away from the University of Maryland.

§  The Great Greek Digital Kitchen: Diners can order online through the restaurant website or a third-party delivery platform and either have their food delivered or pick it up themselves from the Digital Kitchen Spaces are between 190 and 220 square feet. The first Great Greek Digital Kitchen is set to launch this month in Miami. Additional locations in Dallas-Fort Worth, Los Angeles, and San Diego are slated to launch before the end of 2023.

§  Special Venues: The Great Greek Mediterranean Grill has developed buildout options for a variety of non-traditional venues, including airports and travel centers, colleges and universities, shopping malls, entertainment venues, stadiums, and more. Restaurants can range from 500 to 1,000 square feet and offer a service counter with optional communal seating, depending on the space. Rollout is slated for 2024.

Looking a customer ahead, these new formats arrive during the brand’s most successful year in company history. Year-to-date, The Great Greek Mediterranean Grill has signed 27 franchise agreements and opened 15 new restaurants with 10 more projected to open before the end of the year, including five non-traditional locations. “2023 has been a milestone year for our brand in terms of growth and we plan to leverage the momentum we’ve achieved this year into 2024 as we offer these new formats to both new and existing franchisees. The best is yet to come,” added Andersen.

Demonstrating its strength in the highly competitive fast-casual dining industry, The Great Greek Mediterranean Grill has been recognized with several prestigious industry accolades this year. The brand was ranked among the top 75 brands in Fast Casual’s 2023 Top 100 Movers & Shakers report; recognized as a QSR 50 Contender and named among 15 Franchisors to Watch by QSR magazine; included on Franchise Times‘ Top 400 ranking of the largest U.S.-based franchises; and dubbed a Future 50 chain on Restaurant Business and Technomic’s list of the fastest-growing emerging concepts.

Additionally, The Great Greek Mediterranean Grill was selected as a Fast 50 honoree by the South Florida Business Journal as part of its list of the region’s 50 fastest-growing private companies and recently made the inaugural Private 100 list, spotlighting the top private companies in South Florida by 2022 revenue.

The Great Greek Mediterranean Grill® is a part of the Big Flavor Brands™ foodservice division of Starpoint Brands™. Members of Starpoint Brands represent the very best in their industries and are the mark of quality for customers, providing the ultimate in service, reliability, and value.

Is your brand looking a customer ahead? The foodservice status quo is not static.

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.

Monday, November 27, 2023

Grocerant Niche Meals and Meal Components


Grocerant Niche Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat fresh prepared food continues to drive top-line sales and bottom-line profits.  The fact is cooking and cleaning the kitchen are not high on most peoples to do list according to Steven Johnson Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions®. Here are some 2023 numbers from our team:

    1. Recent Grocerant ScoreCards found 82.3% of consumers don’t know what’s for dinner at Noon, and 61.8 % don’t know what’ s for dinner at 4PM.
    2. 68.2 % of consumers would order alcohol with a meal or meal components from a restaurant if available when ordering.
    3. Roughly 63.7% of consumers purchase prepared food items from a retail location at least three times a month.
    4. 79.6% all dinners have at least 1 grocerant niche Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat meal component and 66.6% have two meal components per day.
    5. When asked if they wanted to cook dinner from scratch or assemble dinner from fresh meal components 91.3 % of Gen Z chose assemble from Fresh Prepared Meal Components and Millennials 83.4% chose meal components.
    6. Seventy-three percent of retail prepared food purchases are taken to go
    7. 88.2 % of consumers prefer hand held food over sit down meals with a knife and fork


That said, lets look once again our friends at Technomic and how their findings once again edify our scorecards and insights.  Regular readers if this blog will enjoy this. Here we go:

“One in four shoppers replaced restaurant meals with foodservice options from grocery stores, an increase of 17% from last year, according to FMI — The Food Industry Association’s “Power of Foodservice at Retail” report. 

Shoppers are also cooking at home more often and creating “hybrid meals” that combine premade foodservice items with those made from scratch, according to the report released earlier this month.

"For years, we’ve found that shoppers simply did not think of the grocery foodservice department when planning their meals. But, as shoppers continue to prepare more meals at home, that trend is changing," said Rick Stein, vice president of fresh foods at FMI, in a statement. “Shoppers are creating hybrid meals, which include some scratch cooking with some pre-prepared items. This hybrid meal approach means shoppers want convenience and experience and they are finding it in the foodservice, deli and bakery departments.”   

The research showing increased purchases of total deli foodservice is backed by NIQ (NielsenIQ) data that shows spending at deli counters grew 4.2% to $49.9 billion year over year for the week ended Oct. 7. Meanwhile, deli unit sales declined 1.7% during the same period.

The report added that household penetration of the deli foodservice segment was over 70%, with shoppers making an average of 9.8 purchases per year. That trend is expected to continue, as more than two-thirds of shoppers (68%) plan to continue retail foodservice purchases, while one in five intend to increase such purchases.  

Sales of foodservice and prepared items also increased to $18.5 billion for the year, up 4.7%. Foodservice/prepared unit sales fell 1.8% over the same period.  

Nearly half (47%) of shoppers told FMI that cost was the top factor driving their foodservice purchases. That was followed by taste at 43%; cravings for a particular dish, cuisine or taste at 42; value at 37%; time and effort involved at 35%; availability of options (such as the proximity to a restaurant) at 33%; how soon the meal can be eaten at 26%; and healthy eating considerations at 25%. 

The report also noted that there is room for growth in the healthy options offered at foodservice counters. Only a third of consumers were satisfied with healthy options available, while 65% expressed interest in healthy and nutritional options. Similarly, two-thirds said that they also consider at least one nutritional claim while shopping in the specialty bakery department.  

"Retailers need to adopt a restaurant-like mentality for foodservice and deli. Present features that shoppers appreciate, including online ordering, easy pick-up and delivery, to boost the convenience factor,” Stein said. “For the bakery, freshness is still a top priority for shoppers as is the ability to round out their meals with items like bread rolls or dessert options. Adding technology features that offer convenience is also part of delivering in-store bakery shoppers value." 

Retailers should highlight the comparative value of foodservice relative to restaurants, because shoppers already see it as a good deal, Stein wrote Friday in a blog post co-authored with Steve Markenson, vice president of Research & Insights at FMI. Retail foodservice providers should follow the lead of restaurants by offering restaurant-like amenities. “Topping the list are having a menu available online, enabling advance ordering through apps and offering drive-throughs for pickup,” Stein and Markenson wrote. 

The bog post added that 40% of shoppers expressed the need for help with meal planning, opening opportunities for retailers to offer “meal bundles, in-store displays that bring together the ingredients for a meal, providing ideas through retailer apps and more heat-and-eat choices.” “

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, November 26, 2023

Meal and Menu Pricing Matters


How much are you going to charge your customer next year?  Charge to much and you get your customer go somewhere else. Technology may help you determine who much to charge for any one item but at the end of the it is the total bill with tip that will stick in the mind of the consumers? 

Are you asking your customers to tip at a drive-thru for a cup of coffee?  How is that working for you?  According it Steven Johnson Grocerant Guru® the price, value, service equilibrium at the end of the will be determined at the front door by you customer. Ultimately, discounting and the level or frequency is a brand decision. Below is an article on pricing we wanted to share it is by, Mike Lukianoff and he is the CEO of Extropy.

Restaurants have used differential pricing for decades—dynamic implementation is new.

Funny thing about the English language, there’s a word for just about everything. And when there isn’t we make one up to capture the essence of what we’re trying to communicate. Every profession has jargon and sometimes they turn into buzzwords. 

These words originate as a well-intentioned way to communicate technical stuff to a non-technical audience, but sometimes they catch a hype-cycle and can quickly lose meaning or morph into whatever the hype reshapes them into. Emerging technologies need to expand their lexicon when a field is advancing rapidly.


When the new vernacular changes to make things more relatable to those who will benefit from it then it’s a positive change. But when the use of buzzwords obscures existing meaning without adding clarity, or when the primary benefit of the jargon-sprawl is for companies to hitch their products to the hype-train, it only adds confusion and accelerates potential disillusionment of what might otherwise be a high-potential technology. 

The Dynamic Price Hype-Train

When dynamic pricing solutions first rolled out in delivery channels it was enough to make any data-nerd giddy. The possibilities seemed boundless. Solving the technical hurdles of making real-time changes to prices in multi-channel restaurant commerce and display systems should open the door to dynamic tech that could enhance the whole customer experience. The opportunity is much bigger than Dynamic Price alone.

However, if the technology companies themselves believe the ultimate achievement of their core innovation is setting different prices at different times or managing discounts rather than the technological achievement of the speed and efficiency with which it can be executed—well, there was already a name for that, and it’s “Differential Pricing”—and it has been going on for a long time in the industry, albeit with varying degrees of scientific discipline, strategic design and automation.   

Dynamic Pricing

When something is “Dynamic” it means that it is characterized by constant change: I didn’t decide that—the English language did. It makes a lot of sense that Dynamic Pricing in Restaurants found its home in third-party online systems where the experience is commoditized and less personal than the on-premises experience.

Differential Pricing 


Whether pricing the same product differently across locations (i.e. pricing tiers), or in the same location at different times (happy hour)- tactics for leaning into higher demand times & locations has been happening since at least the 1890’s when the “Blue Plate Special” was introduced by Harvey’s Restaurants. Since then, Happy Hour, off peak “Bounce Back” coupons, Express Menus and Prix Fixe menus have all emerged as commonly used differential pricing tactics. Restaurants have long found low-tech ways to implement ‘differential pricing,’ however the technological advancement is the ability to automate, personalize, target and simultaneously change them rapidly. If those things are not actually changing with some meaningful frequency, then it isn’t “Dynamic”. That’s not a statement of judgement—it’s a statement of fact. Offers that are differentiated by customer group, geography or other cohort are frequently used as another way of creating differential promotional price opportunities.

This has been part of loyalty programs, e-clubs and digital campaigns for at least two decades. Some are executed with “static” prices or offers and others could be genuinely considered dynamic. Some restaurant companies apply sophisticated scientific methods to differential pricing decisions and other products, promotion, and marketing decisions with the same sophistication as the best retailers, travel companies and CPG’s. That level of analysis that can ‘super-size’ the profit opportunity and has historically only been available to the largest chains. But even without sophisticated means of execution or integration with a dynamic display system, differential pricing strategy can be a significant opportunity for restaurants to drive traffic while managing their brand value perception.  

What About Dynamic Coupons?

As for automatic coupons—for the better part of the past decade that’s been called marketing automation, and while most marketing automation systems could benefit from a more sophisticated price optimization approach, most ‘Dynamic Pricing’ solutions on the market are weighting the recommended Price on high-demand periods rather than considering Price as one attribute of the total campaign (creative + impressions + target audience + TRP support + Price Point etc.).  It’s important to consider that when you isolate couponing from the rest of the marketing mix as the only lever, you’re activating a Price discount alone to drive a purchase without visibility into the comprehensive coinciding media mix. For brands that want to emphasize that they are more than a number, it is a step backward from the marketing automation systems that attempt to incorporate the ability to drive traffic based on brand differentiation rather than joining the race to the bottom on price discounting.

Ultimately, discounting and the level or frequency of it is a brand decision. Fortunately, it can now be done in a more targeted and discrete way than before. If discounting is part of your brand—then doing it efficiently and dynamically makes sense—but marketing automation systems designed to find non-price attributes that drive traffic are also more likely to acquire customers who come for what differentiates the brand. Brands would be encouraged to discern what consumers respond to and many do not respond to discounts at all—in these instances you are just giving away revenue.


More than Semantics

My point in writing this is not to ‘police’ the language—but to reduce confusion and manage expectations. There are incredible solutions making real impacts on restauranteurs and customers. However, it’s important that restaurants choose a solution that is appropriate for their brand and customer experience. Great tech fails when the use case doesn’t fit. One restaurant may be ideal for a solution that changes prices (or product features) with great frequency, another for strategically differentiated prices that don’t change with much frequency—and another that just needs the right everyday price strategy. When it’s all muddled into the buzzword of the moment it’s harder for operators to make the right decision for their brand. Semantics matter.

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.