Sunday, April 21, 2024

How and Where Consumers Buy Fast Meals is Evolving


It’s at the intersection of yesterday fast-food restaurant and playground and time starved consumers that today’s consumers is opting for fresh food fast and simple according to Steven Johnson Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions®.  The drive-thru has been a fast-food staple for decades, but the way we get our burgers and fries has been evolving. Let's take a look at how consumer preferences and technology are changing the game.

The Reign of the Drive-Thru

Drive-thru sales have been booming, with estimates suggesting they made up half to over two-thirds of fast -food sales in 2014. This dominance continued through 2019, with figures hovering around 60-70%. The pandemic further solidified its importance, with drive-thru’s reaching over 90% of sales at its peak in 2020, when dining rooms were closed. Even in 2022, around 75% of fast-food sales still came through the drive-thru window.

Beyond the Drive-Thru

While the drive-thru remains a convenient option, new trends are emerging:

·         Delivery: The rise of food delivery apps has impacted fast food. Chains are optimizing their delivery processes and partnering with delivery platforms to reach customers wherever they are.

·         Mobile Ordering & Tech Solutions: Technology is changing the fast-food experience. Mobile apps for ordering, self-service kiosks, and even automated drive-thru systems are becoming more common.

Shifting Consumer Preferences

·         Affordability: Inflation is a concern for many, and fast-food chains are responding with a focus on value for budget-conscious customers.

·         Healthier Options: People, especially younger generations, are demanding healthier choices. Fast food restaurants are offering more nutritious and plant-based options to meet these needs.

·         Sustainability: Environmental responsibility is gaining importance. Fast food chains are implementing eco-friendly practices like reducing plastic waste and sourcing local ingredients.

A Multi-Generational Craving

Differentiation does not mean different it means familiar according to Johnson. Despite these changes, fast food chains continue to attract customers of all ages. There is now truly a multi-generational appeal for fresh food fast. Here are a few examples:

·         Taco Bell: From late-night cravings to family meals, Taco Bell's menu with its crunchy tacos, burritos, and unique offerings remains a crowd-pleaser.

·         Sonic Drive-In: Sonic's retro drive-in experience with burgers, fries, and drink variety offers a dose of nostalgia for all ages.

·         Dairy Queen Grill & Chill: Generations have enjoyed Dairy Queen's soft-serve ice cream, signature shakes, and classic meals, making it a multi-generational favorite.

·         Ponderosa & Bonanza Steakhouses: These iconic buffet-style steakhouses are experiencing a comeback. Families return for the comfort food reminiscent of their past, and the buffet caters to various age groups.

The future of fast food looks like a delicious blend of convenience, technology, and options that cater to our evolving preferences and values. Is your brand keeping up with the evolving consumer?

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

Saturday, April 20, 2024

Restaurants vs. Grocery Stores: The Battle for the Plate


Regular readers of this blog know that for decades, grocery stores reigned supreme as the go-to for meal preparation and home meal replacement. However, the evolving consumer has been migrating.  Recent trends show a shift in consumer behavior, with restaurants steadily chipping away at the grocery sector's market share. According to Steven Johnson Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions® key to that migration has been restaurants keen focus on consumer eating habits. Let's explore the reasons behind this evolution:

1.       Time Crunch and Convenience: Our fast-paced lives crave convenience. The ease of grabbing a prepared meal, especially with online ordering and delivery options, is a major draw for busy consumers.

2.       Shifting Preferences: Consumers are increasingly seeking diverse culinary experiences. Restaurants offer a wider variety of cuisines and flavors compared to what most people can cook at home.

3.       Value Perception: While the base cost of restaurant meals might be higher, some perceive it as offering value. This can include factors like the time saved cooking and cleaning, or the inclusion of additional services like ambience and entertainment.

4.       Industry Innovation: The restaurant industry is constantly adapting. The rise of fast-casual chains and gourmet grab-and-go options provides a middle ground between traditional fast food and sit-down dining, appealing to a wider audience.

5.       Marketing Muscle: Restaurants often have larger marketing budgets than grocery stores, influencing consumer choices and promoting the "dining out" experience.

There is no doubt that legacy grocery stores aren't giving up without a fight. Currently, it looks as if it is a timid fight at best according to Johnson. That said, are some ways they're trying to win back customers:

1.        Prepared Meal Sections: Many supermarkets offer pre-made or partially prepared meals, catering to the desire for convenience.

2.        Meal Kits: Delivering pre-portioned ingredients with recipes offers a restaurant-like experience at home.

3.        Focus on Freshness and Quality: Highlighting high-quality ingredients and organic options can position grocery stores as a source of healthy and delicious meals.

The Future of Food: The Battle for Share of Stomach

The battleground between grocery stores and restaurants is likely to continue evolving. Technology like online grocery ordering with faster delivery times and meal planning apps could further challenge the dominance of restaurants. Ultimately, the winner will be the one that best caters to the changing needs and preferences of time-pressed consumers who value both convenience and delicious food according to Johnson.

Johnson continued, on one side, we have the mighty grocery stores, overflowing with fresh produce and meal possibilities. On the other, the ever-evolving restaurant industry, with its siren song of convenience and flavor.

Now, the grocery store has long been the king of meal prep. But lately, restaurants have been making a power play, and their secret weapon is a two-pronged attack: the drive-thru and takeout for delivery.

Let's face it, folks, in today's fast-paced world, convenience is king. Who has the time to wander the aisles, meticulously picking out ingredients and planning a meal? Restaurants understand this. They offer a curated selection of delicious dishes, ready to be whisked away in minutes through the drive-thru or delivered right to your doorstep.

Here's how restaurants are winning the share of stomach:

1.        Speed: Craving a hot meal after a long day? The drive-thru beckons with its promise of a satisfying meal in a matter of minutes. Grocery stores simply can't compete with that lightning-fast service.

2.        Variety: Sure, grocery stores boast endless aisles, but decision fatigue is real. Restaurants offer a focused menu, ensuring you get a tasty and satisfying meal without the overwhelming number of options.

3.        Delivery Convenience: Gone are the days of slaving over a hot stove. With takeout delivery, you can have restaurant-quality food delivered straight to your door. Grocery stores are just starting to dip their toes into this territory, and it remains to be seen if they can match the efficiency of established delivery platforms.

We ask again are grocery stores up to the task?  Is there still a place for grocery stores in the battle for share of stomach or have they simply given the ready-2-eat and heat-N-eat fresh prepared meal space to both convenience stores and restaurants?  Here are some ways we think they can fight back:

1.        Focus on convenience: pre-prepped meals, meal kits, and healthy grab-and-go options can compete with the speed of restaurants.

2.        Highlight culinary expertise: Leverage your in-house chefs to create unique and flavorful prepared meals that rival restaurant quality.

3.        Embrace delivery partnerships: Partner with established delivery platforms to offer grocery delivery alongside prepared meals, creating a one-stop shop for convenience.

The battle for share of stomach is heating up, and both restaurants and grocery stores are vying for the same customers attention. But with the right strategy, any food retailer can leverage their unique strengths to remain a delicious and convenient option for busy consumers.

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

Friday, April 19, 2024

Convenience Stores Elevated Fresh Foods Sales Success Crushing Blow for Grocery Deli’s


At the intersection of growth fresh food sales specifically Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat prepared food the convenience store sector is simply trouncing the grocery store sector.  In fact, Steven Johnson Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions® stated, grocery stores should be embarrassed by the way the convenience store sector and garnered share of stomach by simply focusing on the eating habits of our evolving consumer.”

As the Grocerant Guru®, I've always championed the grocery store deli as a delicious and convenient option for busy shoppers. But let's face the facts, folks – convenience stores are giving the grocery store deli a run for their money. On top of that restaurant takeout food growth is simply another point of market share capitulation by grocery stores.  

Here's the skinny: Convenience store foodservice sales are booming, with prepared foods making up a whopping 33.9% of their in-store gross profits. That's a bigger slice of the pie than grocery store delis can claim these days.

Why the shift? Convenience stores are winning on three fronts:

1.        Speed and Simplicity: They excel at grab-and-go options. Think hot dogs rolling on a warmer, pre-made salads, and single-serve beverages – perfect for time-pressed customers.

2.        Value for Money: Convenience stores often undercut grocery stores on price, especially for prepared food items. Their lower labor costs and focus on pre-made options allow them to offer competitive pricing.

3.        Adapting to Trends: Convenience stores are constantly innovating. They're offering healthier options like fruit cups and yogurt parfaits alongside classic favorites. Plus, many feature hot food options that rival fast food joints.

But fret not, grocery stores are still too large to just fade away! They still have the upper hand in several areas:

1.        Variety: Grocery store delis offer a wider selection, with options to cater to different dietary needs and preferences. From gourmet cheeses to organic salads, we can provide a more customized experience.

2.        Quality: We can often boast fresher ingredients and higher quality preparation compared to convenience stores that rely heavily on pre-made items.

3.        Synergy with Grocery Shopping: The deli is a natural pitstop during a grocery shopping trip. Customers can grab a meal to go while picking up groceries for the week.

Want to Build a Larger


Focus on Today's Customers

Not Yesterday's Wall Street Metrics 

Here's a few ways that grocery stores could bounce back: They need to up their deli game! Focus in on:

1.        Fresh, Appealing Displays: Make delis look vibrant and appetizing.

2.        Shorter Wait Times: Streamline service to compete with the speedy nature of convenience stores.

3.        Innovative Offerings: Feature unique, chef-inspired dishes that can't be found at the corner store.

4.        Highlighting Quality: Showcase the fresh ingredients and culinary expertise that goes into deli offerings.

By combining the customer focused touchpoints including; convenience, price, and quality the grocery store deli can reclaim a place as a destination for grab-and-go meals. It's time to make the deli aisle a destination, not an afterthought.

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.