Saturday, November 22, 2014

Meal Solutions LLC: Convenient Affordable Healthy Food

One Midwestern company is trying to provide a consumer focused solution to the time-stared consumer in search of fresh prepared Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat food.  Located in  Lincoln, Nebraska Meal Solutions is striving to make eating healthy convenient offering great-tasting, healthy meals tailored to your personal dietary requirements brought right to your door or picked up at their kitchen location.

The founders of Meal Solutions BJ Christlieb and Ethan Taylor understood eating the right foods are important for your overall health and wellness. They understood finding the time in your busy schedule to run to the grocery store and prepare those healthy meals isn't always easy. The goal of Christlieb and Taylor was to create a service dedicated to offering healthy meals at an affordable price at an easy delivery or pick-up convenience. 

To ensure a measured and balanced approach Meal Solutions consults nutritionists to ensure all meals provide the nutrients and health benefits you need from your food. They did not shy away or skimp on taste either.  All of Meal Solutions meals are prepared by a culinary chef to optimize flavor.

Meal Solutions has a broad variety of ‘better for you” meals in-addition they offer custom meals: select your proteins, grains, and more for each meal! There are tons of options for healthy breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. Eating healthy doesn't have to be inconvenient nor does it mean you have to go to the grocery store any longer. 

Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat fresh prepared food can be found in every corner of the country. The food from Meal Solutions is centered, balanced, and price competitive.  For more visit:

Visit:  if you are 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 or visit: Johnson,, or

Friday, November 21, 2014

Restaurant Thanksgiving Meals TO-GO, TAKE-AWAY, TAKE-OUT

Americans are Ready-2-Eat driving Heat-N-Eat fresh prepared food sales. The National Restaurant Association has forecast that 4 million Americans would order a full takeout Thanksgiving meal from a restaurant in 2013, while 14 million would order parts of their Thanksgiving meal to be eaten at home. The Grocerant Niche is Booming.  Take a look at where you can get dinner TO-GO:

Bill Miller Bar-B-Q offers an assortment of Holiday Meals to go.  Broad Breasted Turkey Hen, Broad Breasted Turkey Tom, Honey Glazed Spiral Cut Ham and more.  All orders must be placed by 8:00 p.m. on Monday, November 24th and picked up by 7:00 p.m. on November 26th, as stores will be closing early.  Closed on Thanksgiving Day.  View menu.

Bob Evans will be open Thanksgiving from 8 am until 8 pm, but the chain is also offering its popular heat and serve Farmhouse Feast. The Feast serves up to eight, comes complete with your choice of turkey or ham, bread and celery dressing, mashed potatoes with gravy, buttered sweet corn, green beans with ham, cranberry relish, rolls, pumpkin bread and pumpkin pie.  $79.99 (prices may vary by location). Additional servings of turkey or ham, bread, savory sides and desserts may be added a la carte.

Boston Market – Menu includes everything from whole roasted turkey or spiral-sliced ham to all the sides you crave, like savory stuffing and creamy mashed potatoes.  Dinner options to feed 4 to 12 people. You can order online, by phone or at your local Boston Market restaurant. Everything is already cooked, and it only takes about two hours to heat the entire meal.

Buca di Beppo Italian Restaurants Thanksgiving Feast To Go includes sliced white meat turkey or hickory-smoked ham, homestyle gravy, roasted garlic mashed potatoes, spicy Italian sausage stuffing, green beans and cranberry sauce.  Half pan serves ten for $159.99.  Full pan serves 20 for $299.99.  Prices may vary by location.

Chompie’s offers delicious complete Thanksgiving meal packages to go that serve 12-15 generously, as well as complete Thanksgiving dinners for 6 or more on Thanksgiving day. In addition to coming as part of the meal packages, Chompie’s also offers its extra large (18-20 lbs. raw weight) whole oven-roasted turkeys to go alone. A la carte Thanksgiving side dishes also available.  See full menu.

Cowboy Chicken is offering a Wood Fire Rotisserie Turkey Holiday Package, which feeds between eight to ten guests and features a 10-12 pound Wood Fire Rotisserie Turkey, Twice Baked Potaters, a Wild West Side, Country Style Stuffing, 12 dinner rolls, and Peach or Southern Blackberry Cobbler, all for $84.95.  Guests may order their Wood Fire Rotisserie Turkey Holiday Package at any Cowboy Chicken location between now and December 31st, 2014.

Cracker Barrel Old Country Store is offering Thanksgiving Dinner To-Go from November 22nd through November 30th.  Serve up to six for $59.99.  Oven Roasted Turkey Breast, Cornbread Dressing, Gravy, a sampling of Sugar-Cured Ham, choice of Three Country Sides, Cranberry Relish, choice of made from scratch Biscuits, Corn Muffins, or a Loaf of Sourdough Bread.  Click for more details.

Famous Dave’s is offering a Hickory Smoked Glazed Ham and Ham Feast and Cherrywood Smoked Turkey and Turkey Feast for pick up.  Feasts include Garlic Red-Skin Mashed Potatoes and Gravy, Dave’s Cheesy Mac & Cheese, and Green Beans.  Order by November 23rd for Thanksgiving and pick it up November 26th.

Luby’s offers an extensive selection of holiday meals, side items and A la Carte selections.  Choices include Roasted Prime Rib, Whole Roasted Turkey Breast, Spiral Cut Ham, Whole Roasted Turkey, Whole Smoked Turkey, Whole Deep Fried Turkey and much more.  Click for menu.

Lucille’s Smokehouse Bar-B-Que offers individual Thanksgiving Dinners to go which include slow-smoked turkey, ham or both, served with Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Sweet Mashed Potatoes, Green Bean Casserole, Southern Stuffing, Apples Sauteed in Jack Daniels, Giblet Gravy, Cranberry Sauce, Biscuits with Apple Butter and Sweet Potato Pie.  Adults $24.99, Kids $11.99.  Lucille’s Thanksgiving Day catering menu includes a choice of Smoked Sliced Turkey and/or Marinated Ham with all the fixings.  Guests can also order Hickory Smoked Whole Turkeys.  All holiday orders must be placed by November 25.

Maggiano’s Thanksgiving Day Carryout Package includes choice of salads, sides, desserts and pastas.  Entrees include Traditional Roast Turkey Breast, Country-Style Baked Nueske Ham and Parmesan-Crusted Tilapia.  Carryout orders must be placed by Monday, November 25th.

Marie Callender’s offers Holiday Feasts, Sides, Party Platters, Boxed Lunches and Desserts for carryout.  For selections and pricing, download Marie Callender’s Holiday Guide.

Max & Erma’s will be open Thanksgiving Day for dine-in, but guests can also order the chain’s Thanksgiving meal for carryout.  Guests can also order from the regular Max & Erma’s menu.

Mimi’s Cafe is offering Holiday Feasts To-Go, serving eight to ten, for $89.99.  Selections include 
Herb-Butter Basted Turkey with Gravy, Candied Pecan Sweet Potatoes, Whipped Mashed Potatoes, Buttered Cornbread Stuffing, Apple Cranberry Orange Relish, Green Bean Casserole, Whole Pumpkin Pie, six freshly-baked brown-sugar-topped Pumpkin Muffins.  Mimi’s will also offer “Just the Sides” and “Brunch at Home” to-go options.  Click for more information.

Ruffino’s will offer its annual Thanksgiving To-Go services from 10:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. The award-winning restaurant will also be open for dine-in guests during these hours, serving up traditional home-cooked meals alongside Ruffino’s signature “Creole meets Italian” favorites.

Ruth’s Chris Steak House offers your favorite side items to-go. Sweet Potato Casserole, Green Beans with Roasted Garlic and Creamed Spinach are all available in family-sized portions for $29.95 (serves ten to twelve).

Sticky Fingers Smokehouse is offering smoked turkey (10-12 lb), 5 quarts of Southern sides and pumpkin pie for $69.  Serves 4-6 people.  Pre-order by November 23

Texas Land & Cattle has its Thanksgiving Catering Menu available for Thanksgiving.  Orders must be placed by Nov. 24 for Thanksgiving Day pick up. Restaurants will be open Tuesday, Nov. 27 from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Woody’s Bar-B-Q – Preorder your smoked turkey by November 15th.  8 – 10 lb. turkey $29.99.

Since 1991 retail food consultancy Foodservice Solutions® of Tacoma, WA has been the global leader in the Grocerant niche for more on Foodservice Solutions® or for a Grocerant Scorecard visit,  Email:

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Is your Restaurant a Showroom or Salesroom

While consumers are evolving with technology so fast many restaurants feel that they can’t keep up, it cost too much to keep up, or that they should not try to keep up.  Foodservice Solutions® team believes that it’s not the technology that’s the problem. The problem is how restaurateurs view the restaurant itself. 
Today when you create a unique menu item that generates consumer buzz, high sales, while others start copying it, and adding it to their menu.  Then your restaurant has evolved into a showroom and is no longer just a restaurant. Has your restaurant become a Showroom? Are you still doing what you did 3,4,or 5 years ago?
Don’t let your restaurant become the next Best Buy a great showroom with declining store counts, sales, and profits.  The other concern is while you are spending millions advertising on Google, or Amazon they are doing just the opposite.  Remember when retailers were scared of their online competitors? You should be again for both are now selling food, fresh food and fresh prepared food delivered to your customer’s door.
When Amazon announced that they were opening a Brick-N-Mortar store in New York City, San Francisco, what did you think? Restaurant  advertising platform Google is delivering fresh food right to your customers door.  Did you once again think well, that does not concern us? Today, On-line retailers are becoming Brick-N-Mortar solutions utilizing ideations from your showroom and on-line ads.
Eye-glass retailer Warby Parker has opened several stores and stores-within-stores partnering with already established eye wear retailers. Plated, the once online meal-delivery service only, offers a truck instead of a stationary storefront for its hungry New York patrons.
So, are these retailers innovative expansionist? Should you worry? Yes, you should worry only if your are still doing things the same way you were 3, 4, or 5 years ago.  Here are three things customer want:
1.       Customers want to Discover
They like a brand with consumer relevance.  If your brand is not on the ‘information highway’ your customer will simply by-pass your brand.  The same hold true to the sidewalk, street corner, and airport. On-line retailers are garnering customer relevance. How are you expanding your brand?
2.       Customer want Convenience
The Hudson Riehle Senior VP Research & Knowledge Group of the National Restaurant Association said “88% of adults with smartphones/tables use them to look-up, restaurants, locations, and hours of operations.  Foodservice Solutions® Grocerant Guru™ found that 92% of consumers would buy a branded food they liked item from a non-traditional outlet.
3.       Customers want it both ways.
Sampling a new food item in-store is a vastly different experience than receiving a sample in the form of a ‘free coupon’, a sample in the mail, consumers want to discover on their terms.  They want that invitation to be both customized and personalized.  Customer relevance today equals a branded seamless experience from Digital too Brick-N-Mortar and Portable or Brick-N-Mortar too Digital with food portability.
4.       Are you funding, your next competitor?
What consumer relevant digital advertising platform are you spending on?  Who analyzes the analytics first?  Does your advertising partner sell meals or meal solutions direct to consumer?
To create that seamless experience recently Plated, the online food delivery service, has started sending out a food truck to feed New Yorkers from the street. They also cleverly offer samples and coupons for online orders for new customers. Customers get to taste what’s next, literally, and feel more comfortable making that order from home next time.  Outside Eyes can help you look A Customer Ahead. What role does portability play in your integrated concumer messaging and marketing?
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.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Baskin Robbins Ready-2-Eat Thanksgiving Treat

Holidays are a special time for family, friends, and food.  While cooking from scratch may sound like fun most Americans today either don’t want to cook from scratch, don’t want to do dishes, or lack the skill set to cook from scratch.  Grocerant niche Ready-2-Eat food continues to expand brand food sales success.

Restaurant after restaurant has solution that will save you time and allow you to serve something your family will like, that is different, yet compliminary to holiday meal and family all weekend long.  Baskin-Robbins is no different they have several options that are perfect this Thanksgiving.

I’m sure Baskin-robbins Ice Cream Cakes will be gobbled-up if not by your fmaily by you.  Baskin-Robbins even has Online-Ordering with a option to customize your Thanksgiving cake.  So if the pie did not come out of the oven and look, smell, or resemble a centerpiece.  Think Baskin-Robbins this year.

Success does leave clues and Baskin-Robbins customizable Ready-2-Eat Ice Cream Cakes complement perfectly consumers demand for additional grocerant niche options.  Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat food is the fuel driving the accelerating growth of the Grocerant niche.

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

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

By-By Home Meal Replacement Hello Grocerants

Looking back, during the late Home Meal Replacement frenzy grocery stores, C-stores and restaurants all studied with excitement the successful developments of Phil Romano's Eatzi's. Recently revived Eatzi's is where Phil turned the page from restaurateur too foodservice retailer, food merchant and Grocerant leader. Phil's experiment was a smashing success. It was and remains consumer interactive, participatory with visceral authenticity recording sales of 17 Million a year at the original store. Now in NYC Eatlaly is Eatzi's on steroids doing close to 60 Million a year in sales.

Legacy Home Meal Replacement focus quickly faded away in the Restaurant side of business. However in the Grocery, C-store and Drug Store sector it continued to be studied, tested, and implemented. Today the grocerant niche is the strategic path of choice for non-traditional food retailers, targeted at restaurant customers, profitable and expanding at an ever increasing pace.
Food is Part of the Broader Consumer Omni Channel Retail Trend
Wawa was once considered a convenience store now the Wawa positions it's brand asFresh First, Built-ToOrder and Ready-To-Go with focus of serving Fast Casual Food- - To Go. At Wawa customers are now finding What's for Breakfast, What's for Lunch and now what's for Dinner. Sheetz once a convenience store now calls themselves a restaurant that sells gas.Sheetz Made To Order food is a hit with customers. Sheetz is successful contemporizing legacy C-store products with differentiation, customization and personalization. Consumer like the variety, 24 hour menu serving all day parts - all day long - a wide range of consumer meal and snacking needs. Sounds and acts like a restaurant doing all the right things.

Rutter's is another convenience store in transition. Rutter's understands the unique balance between palate, price, pleasure and the consumer's drive for qualitative distinctive differentiated new messaging and Rutter's is meeting that need set. The food value proposition equilibrium for the consumer today balances; better for you, flavor, and traditional products all blended into something with a twist. In industry speak, differentiated does not mean different to the consumer it means familiar. Rutter's is an example of brand identity extending beyond consumer expectations within the traditional conveniences store sector. Too the consumer Rutter's is a direct valued competitor within the QSR space.
Examples of Today's Grocerant
The grocerant niche is a result of the blurring of the line between restaurants, grocery stores, convenience stores, and drug stores all selling fresh prepared, portable convenient meal solutions. Targeted at the time-starved consumer with Ready-2-Eat or Heat-N-Eat fresh prepared food components that are "better for you", portable and portioned for one or two. All of these operators want a larger share of the retail food market. They want to take share from the restaurants.
Whole Foods is no longer Whole Paycheck but Whole Fresh Food Fast and consumers find that is "better for you". They are driving customer frequency while building loyalty with Fresh prepared ready-2-eat and heat-N-eat better for you food. Whole Foods focus is on convenient meal participation, better for you differentiation, and individualization.

Safeway's has integrated Mix and Match Meal Bundling marketing into daily and weekly iphone app's and legacy print flyers. With a focus on Fresh Prepared Food, Safeway is leveraging The 5 P's of Food Marketing: Product, Packaging, Placement, Portability and Price establishing contemporized consumer relevance. In what was once restaurant food space alone grocery stores, C-stores and Drug stores are now garnering consumer attention.
Walgreens Fresh Food Is a Disruptive Force in Retail Foods
This video of Walgreens in San Francisco entering the fresh food space is evidence that no food retailer should dismiss as not my competitor. Walgreens with over 78 Billion in sales they has the capital and resources to repeatedly try an try again unitl they get it right. Walgreens might just be the next Next Biggest Competitor in the retail food space.
Walgreens Fresh with Duane Reade have 7,500+ retail outlets. Who is selling what in your back yard? With Walgreens entering the fresh food area again with meats, wraps, soups "and other on-the-go meal options, as well as convenient alternatives for tonight's family meal, it is clear that the future of fresh food retail leadership may be up in the air.
A Final Thought For Retailers and Food Brands
Food Retailing never takes a step backward. Consumers are dynamic not static always looking to save both time and money. The grocerant niche is propelling new quality points of fresh food distribution and competitors that are well financed. Remember, when it is 4pm, do you know what your customers want to make for dinner ?

Steven Johnson is Grocerant Guru at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions, with extensive experience as a multi-unit operator, consultant and brand/product positioning. Since 1991 Foodservice Solutions® of Tacoma, WA has been the global leader in the Grocerant niche for more on Steven Johnson and Foodservice Solutions® visit The Grocerant on LinkedIn or @Grocerant on Twitter

Monday, November 17, 2014

Sampling Provides Lift for Private Label Fresh Prepared Food

Drug Stores, Grocery Stores, Convenience Stores and Liquor stores all know that sampling food products drives sales. What we are beginning to see is that private label fresh prepared pick up steam in the Grocerant sector. Many companies are now utilizing the use of samples on both Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat fresh prepared private label food to build sales while national brands pick up advertising.

We all know the Whole Foods has Ready-2-Eat food stations scattered about their stores and for quite some time. They have utilized sampling as a way to build customer product trial and loyalty. What is now interesting is watching Safeway’s lifestyle stores increase sampling, companies like COSTCO sampling their own private label Heat-N-Eat products in the store, and Pinkies Liquor stores doing the same.

This is great as it is providing sales lift within the store while building larger basket.  It has been proven time and after time that sampling food works. In a recent study published in Progressive Grocer on established brands sampling found “the sales lift the day of the event was 177 percent greater than the control group, which received no samples. It remained up 57% after the 20-week period.”

For restaurants and C-stores new or established brands, there is one thing you must continue to do and that is sample Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat fresh food products within your 4 walls. Beyond legacy retailer’s research on restaurants show’s 33% of customers that arrive at your restaurant every day have never eaten in your unit. If you’re a national brand that does not mean the customer in your store today has ever been in your store before or that customer has been exposed to your brand. Capture that experience in a positive way! Sample, Sample, Sample, for independent fresh food retailers and regional players the opportunity is even greater!

Join me here on my blog for insights, information and inspiration. Since 1991 Foodservice Solutions of Tacoma, WA has been the global leader in the Grocerant niche for more on Steven Johnson and Foodservice Solutions visit or on Facebook at Steven Johnson Contact the Grocerant Guru® directly at:

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Is The Restaurant Sectors Golden Era Fading

Restaurant sectors unprecedented customer capitulation has created opportunity for new non-traditional retailers.  Today it looks as if the Golden Ear of the restaurant industry passed. More he Golden Ear of the restaurant industry passed and it’s looking as if the peak was in 2000 when studies show that Americans bought 215 meals per person in restaurants. 

In 1993 the US Census Bureau reported that there were 260 Million people living in the US. In 2013 the US Census Bureau reported that the US had 317 Million people living here.  So, let’s look at both sector capitulation then opportunity.

The restaurant sector in 1993 was having a very good year as “Americans purchased 191 meals per person” according to the NPD Group’s Harry Balzer.  Here is the problem the US population has grown 22% since 1993 and customer frequency at restaurants has declined from a high of 215 visits per person a year in 2000 to 191 today the same as in 1993 a decline of 11.1% of visits per person a year. 

The question; is the decline due to ‘sameness’ in menu offerings, look alike concepts, positioning and marketing or the economy.  First we can rule out the economy.  Why, consumers are not eating less according to current obesity studies they are eating more and eating more somewhere else.

Industry Leaders Customer Migration is Underway

Ron Paul founder and CEO of Technomic speaking about consumers eating patterns stated “they are increasingly turning to other forms of foodservice.  Ready-to-eat and ready-to-heat food from grocers and other retailers are increasing in quality and variety and are now well accepted.” Paul continued “This all means that for the restaurant industry, the boom years aren’t coming back any time in the foreseeable future.”

Harry Balzer, Chief Industry Analyst and vice president at NPD Group, when speaking about the 2014 Eating Patterns in America report commented "We are eating more meals at home -- but not cooking more meals,"  "The real foods and beverages of the decade are not hummus, quinoa, nor kale, and not even Sriracha," says Balzer. Rather, he says, its snack foods or simple foods that require little to no preparation.

Clients and regular readers of Foodservice Solutions® Grocerant Guru’s Blog know that Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat fresh prepared food is driving the growth of the Grocerant Niche and new non-traditional points of fresh food distribution.

Today consumers are eating 8 of ten meals at home according the 2014 NPD Report Eating Patterns in America.  What is important to note however according to our Grocerant Guru™ “eating at home does not mean cooking from scratch, rather it means a meal assembled from Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat fresh prepared meal components that are bundled into a customized mix and match family meal.”

Not traditional Fresh Food Outlets Driving Growth

So, where are the successful non-traditional retailers? To start more and more are coming from retail drug stores the ilk of Walgreens, C-stores the ilk of Sheetz, Rutter’s, and Casey’s General Store and within the Dollar store sector.  

We know most home cooked meals are not cooked from scratch.  A new retail model is emerging a direct to consumer model including companies the ilk of Chef’d, is a delivery service that will bring everything you need to make a gourmet meal - including fresh ingredients - right to your door!

They offer over 100 meal options, including ones made famous by your favorite celebrity chefs and restaurants. Vegan? Not a problem! Chef’d accommodates several diets and lifestyle choices including vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free paleo and more visit

Chef’d is not alone there are legacy companies that have joined the ranks expanding their brand Betty Crocker, Whole Foods  and plenty of successful new companies as well including Hello Fresh, Plated, and Munchery, offer online ordering and or event catering all are competing for share of stomach.   

One of the key driving forces behind the fast evolving retail food space has been documented by Foodservice Solutions® team as The 65 Inch HDTV Syndrome.  Our Grocerant Guru™ track metrics that are consumer relevant, as the consumer evolves so do the metrics. Are you Looking a Customer Ahead?

Restaurants and fresh food retailers can regain customers while expanding their brand integrating Foodservice Solutions® 5 P’s of food marketing.  Success does leave clues.

Since 1991 retail food consultancy Foodservice Solutions® of Tacoma, WA has been the global leader in the Grocerant niche for more on Foodservice Solutions® or for a Grocerant Scorecard visit,  Email: