Saturday, December 9, 2023

Restaurants Get Ready As Customers Are on Their Way


It looks as if this is going to be one of the best holiday seasons for the restaurant sector, and that is simply good news according to Steven Johnson Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions®.

Yes, consumers are choosing restaurants this holiday season, according to a new National Restaurant Association survey showing two-thirds (63 percent) of adults plan to eat out during the next several weeks and half (48 percent) plan to order takeout or delivery.

“Our research confirms that restaurants serve a practical need during the holiday season—giving guests the gift of time so they can enjoy the warmth of good company with family and friends,” said Michelle Korsmo, President & CEO of the National Restaurant Association. “The data also reveal that takeout and delivery remain critical components of the guest experience for every age group. From Gen-Z to Baby Boomers, restaurants have options to meet every need and taste preference, in this season and throughout the year.”

This holiday season, consumers see value in letting restaurants help heighten their meals at home. Sixty-six percent of those choosing to order in from a restaurant will order the entire meal from a restaurant, while many are trusting restaurants with the main course (89 percent), sides (86 percent) or appetizers (74 percent) for their meal. Nearly 2 in 3 (63 percent) will purchase desserts from a restaurant.

Social Media’s Role and Generational Differences

Given the emergence of TikTok-driven trends at restaurants in the National Restaurant Association’s 2024 What’s Hot Culinary Forecast, owners, operators and chefs should look for social inspirations when putting together their holiday main courses this year. Chefs from across the U.S. found that consumers want to try new foods, but in a way that’s recognizable, comforting and communal – which lends itself well to the holiday season. For millennials planning to order out this holiday season, the majority (91 percent) said they were most likely to purchase the main course from a restaurant.

Why and how consumers choose where to eat this season also differs by generation:

§  82 percent of millennials point to the importance of takeout or delivery options when choosing a restaurant as compared to a little more than half (53 percent) of baby boomers.

§  Millennials are the most likely to use a restaurant over the holidays to avoid grocery shopping during busy times (75 percent), surprisingly beating out Gen Z (65 percent). Baby boomers are the least likely to factor in grocery shopping (57 percent).

§  Overall, baby boomers are the least likely to let restaurants do their cooking (72 percent) over the holidays whereas Gen Z (86 percent) are the most likely to go out or order in.

The National Restaurant Association conducted an online survey of 1,010 adults nationwide November 10-12, 2023.

In case you did not know, founded in 1919, the National Restaurant Association is the leading business association for the restaurant industry, which comprises nearly 1 million restaurant and foodservice outlets and a workforce of 15 million employees. Together with 52 State Associations, we are a network of professional organizations dedicated to serving every restaurant through advocacy, education, and food safety. We sponsor the industry’s largest trade show (National Restaurant Association Show); leading food safety training and certification program (ServSafe); unique career-building high school program (the NRAEF’s ProStart). For more information, visit and find @WeRRestaurants on TwitterFacebook and YouTube.

Are you trapped doing what you have always done and doing the same way?  Interested in learning how Foodservice Solutions Five P’s of Food Marketing can edify your retail food brand while creating a platform for consumer convenient meal participationdifferentiation and individualization?  Email us at:

Friday, December 8, 2023

Are your Customers Happy?


Chances are if customers come into your restaurant they are happier than if they simply order on-line according to new insights and Steven Johnson Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions® agrees and wants to share these new insight from Merchant Centric.

Remember this term; The Happy Customer Index, based on Merchant Centric’s proprietary data, looks at reviews for delivery, to-go, and mobile app experiences. You are going to want to refer back to it the team at Foodservice Solutions® believes.  Here is what they have to say:

“Throughout the past three quarters, we’ve taken a look at which fast casual, casual and fine dining brands perform the best according to customers as part of The Happy Customer Index. The index leverages Merchant Centric’s proprietary data, which analyzes content from millions of reviews across sites like Google and TripAdvisor to identify insights on over 100 key metrics, such as food, cleanliness, staff demeanor, and value.

This time around, we’re taking a look at the digitally-enabled off-premises business, as it remains elevated after an abrupt, pandemic-induced shift. To better understand digital guests’ satisfaction, Merchant Centric examined reviews mentioning “to go,” “delivery” and “mobile apps,” which included over 1.25 million reviews from September 2022 to August 2023.

What have we learned?

“Guests tell us that the digital experience is not nearly as good as dining in; generally, about three quarters of a star to a full star lower,” said Merchant Centric Co-Founder Adam Leff. “However, delivery services have been closing the gap on the to-go experience, improving at a faster rate. Mobile app mentions do not necessarily refer to offsite ordering but are mentioned the least and fare the worst.”

Notably, the average ratings for these digitally related themes are lower than all reviews by about 60-to-70 basis points. Consider:


·         The average rating for reviews mentioning “mobile apps” is 2.33 stars out of 5 stars.

·         The average rating for reviews mentioning “delivery services” is 3.02 stars out of 5 stars.

·         The average rating of reviews mentioning “to go” is 3.40 stars out of 5 stars.

By comparison, the restaurant industry average rating during the same period is 4.11 out of 5 stars.

The mobile app experience

The biggest disparity between dine-in and digital mentions in reviews came from mobile app experiences. Low ratings for apps come as more brands double down on their mobile presence to drive traffic and frequency, whether by updating their loyalty programs, offering exclusive deals, incentivizing digital orders and more. The benefits extend to operators, as well, providing deeper consumer insights and the ability to better personalize messaging. But because consumers have become so mobile dependent, any subpar experience can lead to frustration. Taco Bell, for instance, generates 32% of Reddit conversations among the top 10 quick-service restaurants – far more than its peers – but conversations have predominantly focused on dissatisfaction with the brand’s app, including order inaccuracies, glitches, and usability challenges.

That said, there has been improvement for mobile app performances (10 basis points) based on customers’ reviews, as well as for to-go and delivery experiences. Overall, to-go fared the best among reviews and was mentioned the most, though delivery improved the most (14 basis points) throughout the past year.

Leff believes the improvement within the delivery channel is attributable in part to brands’ increased focus on their digital business – redistributing labor to digital makelines, for instance, or adding features like pickup shelves, or location-based or sequencing technology.

“It is no surprise there is a gap between dine-in and to-go/delivery. People just expect that when they don’t have the dine-in service or hospitality, it will not be as good,” Leff said. “To a large degree, they’re forgiving because of this. The important thing is we’re seeing steady improvement in overall (digital) guest satisfaction.”

Special note: All data and analytics presented in this article are based upon Merchant Centric’s findings and, like all data sets, are inherently limited in scope and nature. Data presented herein may not be comprehensive and may exclude certain brands or brand locations. Data is provided without guarantee as to its accuracy, completeness, or currency, and Merchant Centric expressly disclaims any and all liability resulting from reliance on information or opinions included herein.”

Are you trapped doing what you have always done and doing the same way?  Interested in learning how Foodservice Solutions Five P’s of Food Marketing can edify your retail food brand while creating a platform for consumer convenient meal participationdifferentiation and individualization?  Email us at:

Thursday, December 7, 2023

Growth Makes Happy Joe’s Happy


Customer frequency matters. When you are a restaurant, looking at your concept, trying to drive top-line sales and bottom-line profits, start with the menu. That according to Steven Johnson Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions®. That said, leveraging the menu to increase customer frequency without operational disruption is an art and Happy Joe’s Pizza & Ice Cream can show you how.  Let’s look at what they are doing.  

Yes, regular readers of this blog know that people love pizza. People love burgers. For the creative minds at Happy Joe’s Pizza & Ice Cream, combining the two just makes sense – especially since they’ve mastered the art of developing extraordinary pizza creations.

There big idea was to turn the most popular Happy Joe’s pizzas into burgers, using the same toppings found on its innovative pizza menu. Already available at Happy Joe’s corporate locations, the new pizza burgers are launching at franchise locations on Friday, Dec. 1. 

The Happy Joe’s Pizza Burger menu includes:

Sloppy Joe Burger: Pickles, mustard and blended cheese top this burger alongside Joe’s Sloppy Joe meat.

Taco Burger: The world-famous Taco Joe Pizza on a burger! Served with HJ’s Mexican bean sauce and blended cheese. Drizzled with nacho cheese sauce and lettuce, tomato, and chips.

Taco Supreme Burger: Just like the HJ’s Taco Supreme Pizza, adding black olives, jalapeƱos, and sour cream to the Taco Burger.

BLT Burger: HJ’s burger topped with pizza sauce, mozzarella, Canadian bacon, bacon, lettuce, and mayo – just like the pizza.

Mac n Cheese Burger: Macaroni and cheddar cheese transform this classic burger into a classy delight.

HJ Special Burger: HJ’s burger topped with pizza sauce, mozzarella, Canadian bacon, and crispy sauerkraut. Just as unique as the namesake pizza.

Hamburger: Classic burger without cheese.

Cheeseburger: Classic burger with cheese.

Taco BurgerMac n Cheese Burger

Tom Sacco, CEO, Chief Happiness Officer and President, stated, “While our customers expect great pizza from Happy Joe’s, they also expect us to bring them new, unique, tasty creations,”… “It’s a reputation we began building back when we were the first to introduce the Taco Pizza. And now our Pizza Burgers continue the tradition of out-of-the-box ideas that you can only get from Happy Joe’s!”

While the price ranges based on which Pizza Burger the customer chooses, the cost varies from $8.99 – $10.99. Customers can find their favorites and what satisfies their taste buds on Happy Joe’s website.

For more information about Happy Joe’s, please visit

Success does leave clues and Happy Joe’s has picked up all of the right clues to build incremental top-line sales and bottom-line profits.

Invite Foodservice Solutions® to complete a Grocerant Scorecard or a Grocerant Program Assessment.  Since 1991  of Tacoma, WA has been the global leader in the Grocerant niche visit Johnson, or   Call: 253-759-7869 or Email:  

Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Independent Convenience Stores Think Small to Survive


Local independent and small regional convenience stores chains have been the heart of the community and a staple in many Japanese neighborhoods forced by growth of national chains are searching for ways to maintain customer relevance and fend off threats from global competitors. The same thing is happing in every country around the word according to Foodservice Solutions® Grocerant Guru®.

Let’s look at some examples Ministop, which has six Indonesian outlets, the fewest among Japanese companies, plans to cut costs by operating smaller stores and revamping its product lineup. For example, the matcha green tea-flavored soft ice cream it is promoting is selling three times as well as the chocolate flavor, the company reported to local media.  Ministop with promote more local flavored products to edify each community.

Small retailers like Alfamart, Indonesia's convenience store market grew about 13% by sales in the first nine months of this year. Though that is down from 19% in the same period last year, the growth is still significant compared with midsize retailers such as supermarkets, which saw 3.6% growth according to Alfamart. Wawa, Sheetz, and Rutter’s all growing units in the US while traditional grocery stores continue to see unit count declines year over year.

Japanese players are not alone in their "go small" approach. In Vancouver British Columbia, Happy Vending is finding ways to make the grocery store footprint smaller. Happy Vending allows operators too increase the number of smaller outlets in train stations, high rise office, or high rise apartment building where there is shortage of space to build stand-alone branded stores.

Branding non-traditional units into previously unthinkable locations allows brands to expand valued relationships with local relevance and increase quality consumer touch-points. Success does leave clues and doing things differently and drive top line sales and bottom line profits.

Are you trapped doing what you have always done and doing the same way.  Interested in learning how Foodservice Solutions Five P’s of Food Marketing can edify your retail food brand while creating a platform for consumer convenient meal participationdifferentiation and individualization?  Email us at:

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Will the Restaurant sector Keep Pace with Grocerant Growth?


If you think foodservice Ready-2-Eat and Neat-N-Eat fresh prepared food offerings are dried-out crusted casseroles, rotisserie chickens, and yesterday’s limp salad bar, think again. Consumers can now choose from an almost endless array of appetizers, salads, entrees (prepared meals), snacks, and desserts all fresh prepared full flavored, and consumers rate them as restaurant quality.  

Back in the day when Foodservice Solutions® very own Grocerant Guru® coined the  term “grocerant” which regular readers of this blog know refers to any food retailer (including restaurants) that offer restaurant-style food as Take-Away, Take-Out,  Grab & Go, or offer  in-store, stand-up and sit-down restaurant Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat fresh prepared food. Here are some examples; think companies the ilk of Ikea, Costco, Pinkies Liquor stores, Chipotle, Wawa, Sheetz, and McDonald's. 

While a slowly improved economy has provide consumers the biggest appetite for going out to eat in eight years earlier this year, the second half of this year looks as if  the grocerant niche is eating away at many in the legacy restaurant niche, as  restaurant sector sales seem to be flatting in the second half. There is a battle brewing for share of customer stomach. Are you evolving with consumers? Are you garnering incremental share of stomach?

Foodservice Solutions® team has documented an uptick of grocerant marketing activity during the second half of the year.  Clearly customer adoption of grocerant niche products is underway.  Do you understand the grocerant niche customer? Do you need outside-eyes?

Are you trapped doing what you have always done and doing it the same way?  Interested in learning how Foodservice Solutions 5P’s of Food Marketing can edify your retail food brand while creating a platform for consumer convenient meal participationdifferentiation and individualization?  Email us at: or visit: for more information

Monday, December 4, 2023

Yes, The Chain Restaurant Brand Protectionism Hurts the Restaurant Sector


Sometimes a look back edifies your view ahead. That said, when the consumers evolve brands specifically legacy chain restaurants must evolve as well according to Foodservice Solutions® Grocerant Guru®.   Every restaurant brand wants incremental customer counts month after month and year after year.  Customer count growth is the most important data point followed by industry insiders it is more important that same-store sales growth.  It is a benchmark of success and the clearest way to validate that what your brand is doing is working.  Simply put: more customers positive fewer customers negative.

So, when TDn2K’s Black Box Intelligence through The Restaurant Industry Snapshot, based on weekly sales from over 22,000 restaurant units and 120 brands representing $55 billion dollars in annual revenue reported November 2015 restaurant sector customer counts down once again an alarm bell went off at chain headquarters and within offices at franchises groups you can be assured. 

The report found that ““The average same-store traffic growth for October and November was -2.2 percent, compared with an average -1.1 percent for the first nine months of the year.” This continues a trend of negative same-store traffic counts since 2009 that is SEVEN years. 

Clearly the alarm bell was hear at: Black Eye-Pea, Papa John’s, Ruby Tuesday, Tim Hortons, Joe’s Crab Shack, Bojangles’ all of which have closed or had franchise groups close units within the past two months. Foodservice Solutions® regular blog followers know that brand protectionism does not work.  Doing the same thing today the say way, with the same mind set, same brand values as you did 25 years ago is a recipe for market share capitulation, customer migration, and franchise discontent.

Convenience Stores and Grocery Retailers have evolved, garnered new customers with grocerant niche Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat fresh prepared food.  Leveraging Mix and Match meal component bundling C-store and Grocery Delis continue to drive top line growth and bottom line profits.  What’s more they are growing year over year customer counts.  Does you restaurant have the grocerant niche focus?  Do you understand the role of product, price, and freshness in the consumer mind-set today?

Restaurant brand protectionism has hurt the entire restaurant sector according to BlackBoxIntelligence. Seven years is not a fad, it is a trend.  Don’t get trapped thinking that the ‘good old-days’ are coming back anytime soon.  There is a reason customers migrate.  Are you looking a customer ahead? 

Success does leave clues for grocerant niche clues it time to consider Foodservice Solutions® grocerant niche industry leaders since 1991. Contact:   Invite Foodservice Solutions® to complete a Grocerant Scorecard or a Grocerant Program Assessment. 

Sunday, December 3, 2023

Private Label brand managers need to come out swinging vs. lame slotting fees.


Diminished is the role of the legacy national brand manager in a world where private label is branded. When national brand manufactures continue paying slotting fee’s to grocery stores and supermarkets as the easiest way to reach the consumer. The slotting fee’s continue to go for space on the shelf but the key location End Caps are now being filled with the stores own private label products.  If your paying a National Brand manager and your brand value is gone, fire the brand manager or pay higher slotting fees and fool some of the people some of the time.

Who likes slotting fee’s well for one Wall Street analyst love to see sales via pushing slotting fee’s at the end of a slow quarter to meet “goals”.  Why they like it is beyond logical reason.  Mediocre C-level grocery store chain managers like it better than being force to become merchants.  They utilize slotting fee’s to supplement profits.  It justifying being a poor merchant with rationalization. By the way wall street likes that too!  

The brand managers of the private label products are utilizing a tool out of the National Brand Managers playbook to build loyalty, reinforce value and generate additional sales and profits for the store and their particular private label product.  They are taking the end caps for themselves!

Price Chopper is utilizing what they call “power displays”. Wal-Mart is utilizing the end caps to reinforce value of their private label products and consumer is picking them up! Wegmans gets the customers coming and going utilizing the vestibules with the likes of Wegmans private label potato chips and the next week Wegmans own canned tuna and their own mayo for example. I say keep it up!

Deep in the store the private label battle continues with ready-to-eat and ready-to-heat portable food.  All prepared fresh and in most cases right in front of the customer.  Private Label Grocerant ready-to-eat and ready-to-heat food now has brand managers of their own and they are building sales not slotting fees.  Think about it, building sales on demand from consumers?  Novel ideation or business fundamentals, you chose.

The consumer is dynamic not static your company, your brand, and you should be as well.  Tacoma, Washington based can help you drive top line sales and bottom line profits in our evolving retail landscape.  Contact: