Saturday, October 25, 2014

Snacking Myth not Fact Consumer Search Find Equilibrium

Have you been reading how snacking is now a trend? Asked if it we found it to be Fact or Fiction? We answered Fiction.  Here is what we found with each new article on snacking the author appears to be feasting on PR propaganda from restaurants chains with flat or down customer counts and research firms pandering to public companies thirst for simultaneously rising check averages, top line sales, and bottom line profits. Those main stream articles are more a kin to lemmings running to a cliff than consumer fact. 
The simple truth is 30 years ago QSR chains sold a small beverage aka a soda and it was a 10 oz. serving. Today, a small soda range from 16 oz. to 24 oz. for a small that’s 60% to 140% larger than it was 30 years ago.
It’s been 30 years that the industries prime focus has shifted from consumers, to stock analyst, and the bottom line, too an ever increasing waist line. The consumer has caught on. For five years customers have migrated from restaurants to C-stores and other non-traditional fresh food outlets offering mix and match meal bundling. That meal bundling included single serve fix size beverages not unlimited soda fountain drinks as a draw. Consumer prefer fixed size over unlimited. That is but one example.
Consumers also want to spend less, eat less, but want ‘better for you’ options at meal time. Those snack ideations most often mentioned in articles are equivalent to a basic burger in both portion size and calories that once drove exponential growth in the QSR sector. Why would anyone in this industry think the customer moved? They have not.
The industry has moved in a direction away from the consumer and closer to Wall Street. The tipping may be closer than you think. Momentum is a powerful thing and five years of flat and declining customer counts within the overall restaurant industry has provided ample time to bolster the hopes of the new competitors focused on consumers. Those competitors are positioning right sized, drinks, menu items, and deserts.
There has been no tectonic shift in consumption patterns the only shift that can be quantified over the past five years is consumers migrating to right sized, right priced Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat offerings.
Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat fresh prepared food continues to drive top line sales and bottom line profits. Mix and Match meal bundling empowered by consumer choice is finding a home at non-traditional fresh food outlets aka the Grocerant Niche. Consumers have said enough is enough reduce portion size and price while adding bold flavors and we will come.  Snacking is not a trend it is mislabeled propaganda. 

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

Friday, October 24, 2014

Flat Restaurant Sector Customer Counts Yet Customers Are Happy

The line between restaurants and food retailers is growing ever thinner. The fight for America's food dollars continues to intensify as consumers find fresh prepared Ready-2-Eat food options at a wide and growing array of outlets across almost every channel: convenience stores, chain drug stores, restaurants, grocery stores, club stores, vending and even more non-food retailers like dollar stores.
While manufacturers, retailers and restaurants worry about choice overload, consumers have embraced their new choices and show no signs of returning to the old ways. This fight is taking place in what is called the grocerant niche. Today’s fight is a food fight for share of stomach.
The restaurant industry is not an industry known for trying to be first as in fastest to market with an ideation, food or technology advance. In the United States the larger the chain in almost all cases the more slowly they are to adopt something than a smaller chain or independent restaurants will. Chain restaurants goal is simple feed one meal at a time in the restaurant while protecting and edifying the brand.
Historically chain restaurant leaders have denied the credibility of start-up competitors as non-relevant. The pizza sector is a great example; evolving from family dinning independents to national chain of "Red Roof" Italian, then to delivery only outlets and now take-N-bake is garnering market share in the pizza sector. (Note: Home Made Pizza Company and Papa Murphy's are further examples of take and bake pizza operators.)
Trends in the Food Industry Point to an Increase in Non-Traditional Meal Occasions
At the intersection of the consumer, fresh prepared food and technology we fine that consumer eating behavior is evolving and is now beyond the control of traditional food marketers. Evolving culture and lifestyle, demographics along with the new uncertain economy are all putting pressure on the American food consumer:
Demands of work, economic shrinkage, raising a family, commuting, social interaction, kid's after-school activities, all contribute to a food marketplace where convenience vies with price over legacy brands. Recent advances in food packaging and new points of non-traditional food distribution have empowered consumer choice, and Americans are embracing these choices even as legacy marketers cringe. Who's after restaurant food dollars? … simply put… everyone.
Why should you care if Walgreens is selling fresh prepared Ready-2-Eat and Made-2-Order sandwiches? Why should you care if Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, Safeway and Wegmans are selling Ready-2-Eat and or Heat-N-Eat fresh pizza? Why should you care if Coinstar is selling Seattle Best Coffee at 1,000 locations for $1.00?
You should care because they are selling it, and you are not! The fastest growing sector of retail food service for the past five years has been the Convenience store sector. The C-store sectors growth in large part has been driven by fresh prepared food. Non-traditional avenues of distribution are growing, gobbling market share while establishing new patterns of consumption, price points and customer loyalty.
The Shopper is in Control Spurring New Retail Food Formats
Trader Joe's and Whole Foods have created Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat fresh prepared food items with qualitative differentiation as an entity with identity that has help propel them into Ready-2-Eat fresh prepared food leadership. In fact recent research shows that both Trader Joe's and Whole Foods are each known for high quality (restaurant quality) Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat foods with distinctive offerings. More important each is leading with innovative products and package size that create value and have positioned each chain as a food shopping destination for meal components customized and personalized for immediate consumption or mix and matched for a meal time at home. In short they are stealing your customers.
Walgreens fresh prepared food is restaurant quality and priced less than Panera Bread or Corner Bakery CAFE. Both Panera Bread and Corner Bakery CAFE thrive in urban locations. Walgreens is now growing price, quality and speed of service advantages over legacy retailers. Legacy restaurant chains must reconsider the speed at which they evolve and adapt or non-traditional outlets will capture profits margins as well.
Traditional views of meals and mealtime can pretty much be discarded. Legacy retailers waiting for the "next big thing" to copy simply might be out of luck this time. Legacy food retailers may not like to be first movers very much but it may prove that waiting too long will not work this time.
Product, Packaging, Placement, Portability and Price are Foodservice Solutions® 5 P’s
The retail food world is evolving at an ever increasing pace filled with innovation in food, portion size, points of distribution, and quality fresh prepared meal solutions. The price, value, service equilibrium is resetting in retail foodservice. In order to edify the brand and reinforce consumer relevance restaurateurs must leverage Foodservice Solutions® 5P's of food marketing. 
Many legacy food retailers continue to practice brand protectionism, stifle the brand while diminishing consumer relevance. The consumer is dynamic not static. Brands must be dynamic, evolving with the consumer. Four more years of watching other retail sectors thrive should be long enough. Success in the restaurant world is no longer simply about what happens within your 4 walls. Get Help Now:

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

What is Driving Food Price Value Disequilibrium?

The Consumer is driving change to the price value service equilibrium and many legacy companies are having a difficult time keeping up. The price, value, service equilibrium is resetting in Grocery stores, Restaurants and Convenience stores

Foodservice Solutions® Grocerant Guru™ stated “consumers rapid migration too and adoption of fresh prepared Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat fresh is becoming disruptive.  Consumers are looking for new products, new packaging and time saving options.”

Seeking solutions consumers are driving the evolution of food retail today. They have found solutions in Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat food.  They are attracted by the fresh prepared focus, new portion size, and differentiated price points.  Which provide a strong margin for increased profitability for the retailer?

Every sector of food retail has noticed a growing discontinuity in consumer food shopping behavior and all are fighting for share of stomach.   Contributing to this displacement is a focus on short term market metrics particularly price and away from the consumer.   Which in turn has caused a loss is consumer traffic in some sectors.  

There are other attributes that are much more important to the consumer, yet many don’t take time to look. Today, many consumers lack the skill-set, time, or desire to cook from scratch. Meal assembly is a key ingredient for successful family meal.  Meal time preparation is comprised of utilizing fresh prepared components that are Ready-2-Eat or Heat-N-Eat.  

What kind of food are you selling and where can it be consumed and by whom? Restaurants, Grocery store deli’s, Convenience stores, Drug Stores and even Dollar stores are selling meal components that are mixed and matched then bundled into a  family meal.  Who is your customer and where are they getting dinner?

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, October 22, 2014

Want to know where McDonald's customer are Migrating?

McDonald’s doldrums are creating customer count declines directly correlated to the decline in the number of dollar menu offerings priced at $1.00 according to Foodservice Solutions® Grocerant Guru™ Steven Johnson.  Our field studies continually reveal that the undercurrents of QSR customer migration are grounded in competitive pricing and value offers from non-traditional fresh fast food outlets including C-stores.

The dollar menu and more positioning has proven to be a challenge for McDonalds.  While blaming speed of service, to many menu items offered, and complexity are all real issues.  The simple fact is the price, value, and service equilibrium is not in disarray rather it is under attack

The in fact Bloomberg reported that “McDonald’s famous Dollar Menu now includes items that cost more than $1, and other items are creeping above $5. At some McDonald’s locations in Chicago’s Loop, a Double Quarter Pounder with cheese, fries and a drink totals about $7.50. Chicken Club sandwiches are $4.45, $4.99 and $5.19 at different Chicago McDonald’s restaurants, without sides or a beverage.”

Still an Aspirational

With 49 Million Americans still receiving food assistance via the SNAP program Foodservice Solutions® filed research shows that McDonald’s is still the number one aspirational restaurant brand or consumers receiving SNAP benefits. Yes, McDonald’s is an aspirational brand. Do not doubt it. 

So, where are McDonald’s customers migrating too?  Papa Murphy’s where they can utilize SNAP benefits to buy fresh prepared Heat-N-Eat pizza for one.  Secondly to 7-Eleven where mix and match menu offers are sub one dollar on some items, creating a value position that is strong and driving top line growth, new store counts, and bottom line profits. 

Stuck in the Middle

McDonald’s high end customers those spending between $6.25 and $7.50 per order are migrating to Panera Bread, Chipotle Mexican Grill, and Chili’s enticed with competitively priced promotions. This customer count decline is more about price than speed of service.  It has become a example of a company stuck in the middle of the market getting attacked at both ends.

More and more grocery stores delis are offering a lunch and dinner specials that are priced below lunch or dinner specials offered my QSR’s and Fast Casual restaurants.  Even more important the grocery stores offerings empower consumer choice with interactive participatory touch points that drive engagement.

We all know what happens when a company gets stuck in the middle.  McDonald’s is not in the middle but is misplaced, mispositioned, mispriced.  Customer count growth will drive long term success for any food retailer that can garner customers today rather than capitulate them. .  Integrating Foodservice Solutions® 5 P’s of food marketing into long term strategy not just tactics will drive customer count growth.

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, October 21, 2014

Are C-stores Winning the Battle for Share of Stomach?

In the United States Aldi and WinCo are the two fastest growing fresh food grocery retailers both offer low-cost high quality fresh food.  Dollar stores all the while continuing expanding food offerings including more and more fresh food and fresh prepared Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat food. Walgreens, Rite-Aid each continue expanding fresh prepared food offerings creating a platform for ‘ruthless’ competition for legacy grocery stores that focus more on slotting fees than the consumer. All this while the restaurant sector continues to capitulate customers.
Food Consumer Discontinuity
The Restaurant sector continues to suffer customer declines according to TDn2K’s latest Black Box Intelligence and People Report same-store traffic fell 0.2 percent during September. According to Foodservice Solutions® Grocerant Guru™ Steven Johnson “that makes 5 years of flat or declining customer counts the consumer is not eating less they are eating somewhere else.”
Five years is a long, time, long enough that consumer behavior is evolving faster than many legacy food retailers. Five years is a long enough time that ‘promiscuous’ shoppers, are fast becoming brand loyal customer at new and non-traditional fresh food outlets.  Once driven by competitive pricing today consumers are more and more driven by convenience. 
So, Where Are the Food Shopper’s Migrating
Steve Bishop of outlined where the upscale food shopper is migrating. Bishop has forecast that “Online grocery spending in the US will reach between 11% and 17% in most markets by 2023.  Bishop thinks that the fastest growing markets will reach that range even faster.   If the high-end is migrating to Online, the low end to discounters Aldi, WinnCo, and Dollar Stores where are those in the middle migrating?
Foodservice Solutions® Grocerant Guru™ say’s look no further than the United Kingdom to find how and where the ‘middle’ consumers are going creating new winners  the retail food space. It also provides a view how restaurants customer count capitulation can be explained. 

In fact “1 in every 3 visits to a convenience store in London is to buy food-to-go, according UK according to Katie Littler, Insights Director at him! research & consulting. Littler continued; “Overall 24p in every £1 spent in convenience stores is now spent on meal occasions (food-to-go or meal for tonight) and this proportion continues to grow.” 

Price Value Service

The price, value, service equilibrium is resetting in the United Sates.  Driven by new non-traditional fresh food retailers and continued economic doldrums.  Success does however leave clues. Doing what you have always done, and doing it the same way will not work today.  Do you understand the new competitive food landscape? Wawa in the US says that it is a Fast Casual Restaurant To-Go. Where are your customers eating?  Do you know how to compete in an Omni-channel world?   If not, we do.

Invite Foodservice Solutions® to complete a grocerant program assessment, grocerant scorecard, brand, or product placement assistance.  Since 1991  of Tacoma, WA has been the global leader in the Grocerant niche. Contact: or 253-759-7869 or

Monday, October 20, 2014

Howard Schultz Is The Best Prepared Food Merchant

If success leaves clues and they do.  One clue is success is much easier when you are prepared.  That got our Grocerant Guru™ wondering, was Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz ever a Boy Scout? We all know the Boy Scout motto is ”Be Prepared”.  There is no other retail food merchant as prepared to win as Howard Schultz according to the consensus of Foodservice Solutions® analytic team.

Last week when Starbucks Coffee Company continued its educate and elevate initiatives sharing with over 2000 district managers what it learned over the past year and how they plan to edify the Starbucks brand to
further transform and elevate the Starbucks Experience in Holiday 2014 and beyond.
What Starbucks Learned
Schultz stated: “Holiday 2013 witnessed a seismic shift in consumer behavior in which many traditional brick-and-mortar retailers experienced a decline in foot traffic compared to significant growth in online shopping”
He continued: “Customers researched, compared prices, and then bought the brands and items they wanted online, frequently utilizing a mobile device to do so. Since that time, we have been focused on radically redefining the Starbucks retail experience for our partners, customers and stores. As a result of the work we’ve done, Starbucks is poised for a great holiday – our innovation pipeline is strong and we have a number of initiatives ready to launch during the holiday and into calendar 2015 and beyond,” Since last winter, the company has completely reimagined the holiday experience in stores for this shopping
What Starbucks Knew
Starbucks knew  that for  “U.S. consumers today, innovation means basically one thing: convenience.”
In a recent GfK Roper Reports study, almost eight in 10 people (78 percent) said innovation is about finding faster ways of doing things; slightly less felt it was about finding “easier” ways. All other possible answers scored at least 30 percentage points behind. U.S. consumers seem to have an insatiable desire for cutting corners and they expect the companies they do business with to rise to the occasion.”

In addition Starbucks new that a  U.S. Labor Department study found working parents with children have about an hour a day for meal preparation and consumption  and that includes breakfast and dinner.

 Starbucks in Action Integrating Knowledge & Learnings
  1. Starbucks Gift Card and Ecommerce Expansion Coming Holiday 2014
  2. First-Ever Starbucks for Life Contest Coming Holiday 2014
  3. Mobile Ordering is now being tested with 2015 roll out planned
  4. Starbucks edified its Rewards Program Design and Marketing
  5. In January all Starbucks baristas and shift supervisors will get a pay increase. Experienced Partners who are at or above their pay range and eligible will get a lump sum increase.

Success does leave clues and regular readers of this blog know our team often states “The customer is dynamic not static and your company must be as well.”  Clearly Starbucks is prepared, positioned, and planning for continued success.  What did you learn last year?  What did you do with that knowledge?
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

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Full Flavor Food Fuels Sales

Foodservice Solutions® Grocerant Guru™ stated “one of the hallmarks of the grocerant niche is consumers growing appetite for ‘better for you’ food and beverage options.”  Bundling ‘better for you’ Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat fresh prepared food with full flavored portable meals and meal components will drive sales.
Ed Ancewicz, chef for Eurest the contract foodservice company that serves business and industry clients, stated “People try to eat well, but wellness items do not always taste good,” he says. “But you can add spices to it. A little spicy sausage goes a long way in flavor without compromising the integrity of the food.”
The rapid growth of multigenerational households, multi-cultural households, and a growing Hispanic population combined has created a platform in which “spicy foods” full flavored food will continue expanding its reach.  Today’s as the demand for bolder, spicier and adventurous flavors continues to grow.  Fewer and fewer consumers have the skill-set, time or inclination to cook from scratch or clean-up the kitchen according to Foodservice Solutions® Grocerant Guru™.
Billie Jo Waara chief marketing officer at Taco John’s stated’ “There has been a lot of attention on breakfast in the last year in the industry.  In our consumer research, consumers want a breakfast that is tasty and flavorful and a break from the normal routine. Our goal was to innovate and give a kick to someone’s morning routine.”
One of the best-selling items at Taco John’s is a spicy breakfast burrito according to Waara. The Taco John’s breakfast burrito combines scrambled eggs with a savory chorizo sausage, jalapeƱos and spicy salsa. Breakfast now account for 7.5 percent to 8 percent of menu sales for the franchised restaurants.
Success does leave clues and Full Flavor Food does Fuel Sales is a clue for all fresh food retailers. 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: