Business SenseVol. 16


By September 24, 2016No Comments
bs_article2_1A deli section is almost a given in any supermarket only differentiated by its scale of product offerings. Now, grocers have, or rather, will be feeling the pressure of extending the range beyond sandwiches, simple pastries and the rotisserie. Looking around our region of Southeast Asia we do already have up-and-coming grocerants and notably Ben’s General Food Store and Fresco@Jaya Grocer in Malaysia. We talked about the whys, whats and hows with Steven Johnson of Foodservice Solution.

Mise En Place [MEP]: What do think of this segment’s potential in Asia?

Steven Johnson [SJ]: Kuala Lumpur-Malaysia, Manila Philippines, Seoul-Korea, Hong Kong-China, Tokyo-Japan all have thriving grocerant niche Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat offerings; most commonly found within the convenience store sector. Several reasons –

• Migration from rural par ts of each country to urban centers looking for employment.
• Dramatic increase in single households and singles who lack time or lack the skill set to prepare a favorite meal.
• No one wants to clean up which takes time away from work, friends, family and importantly technology.

MEP: How is it different from a regular supermarket
SJ:I’ll explain with a simple illustration.

bs_article2_4From Mise En Place’s perspective, it also means that today’s consumers are more inclined to be involved in what they eat and through the new grocer y model; they have greater autonomy in food choices. When they can see it in the open, they are attracted to buy which typically leads to a positive experience that cultivates confidence in the store. Also, they want to stay informed and will freely ask questions (complain as well) particularly on social media.

MEP: Assuming I am currently a retailer and eager to grow my business. What are my options to position myself in this segment?
SJ:Well, I’m looking at America and their responses that vary according to time.

At 1pm, 81% do not know “what’s for dinner”? At 4pm, 61% still don’t know “what’s for dinner” though most do start wondering “what am I going to have for dinner?”

Very few will even entertain the idea of cooking from scratch.Most consumers do not have a clue what they want, let alone what to eat or cook for dinner. 4PM is the time that the competition between; Supermarkets, Grocery Stores, Convenience Stores, Drug Stores, Restaurants, and non-traditional outlets for share of stomach heats up. Perhaps this can be a starting point for you to evaluate where you are and the difference you want to be.

Retailers have 4 options: Fresher, Better, Cheaper, or Not Around Much Longer.

MEP: What should you cook?
SJ:Prepared foods that can be hand-held, portable, are ready-to-eat or can be heated quickly and most of all prepare them fresh everyday and all day if you can.He opines “the next time you head for Jaya Grocer to get your fresh cut of steak or seafood, you might not land up taking it out in a bag with you. Instead, you are probably going to enjoy tucking into the steak or fish, the way you like it prepared, sitting down in the middle of the supermarket.” – Steven Johnson on Fresco –

MEP: Would customers perceive food sold in grocerant ought to be cheaper than standalone restaurants? How can you price competitively?
SJ:Together with Foodservice Solutions®, we usually recommend clients to determine their prices with this formula:

Consumers are resetting the Price, Value, Service Equilibrium. Here is Foodservice Solutions® formula:
(Mobile Access + Digital Payment + Delivery) x (Price + Food Quality + Speed) = Value

Provide Incremental Value:
Constantly Changing Menu (Seasonally / Sustainability with Creditability).

MEP: Space is premium. Should a grocer purchase multifunction equipment for cooking or sell ready-cooked food and kept on a bain-marie. What would you suggest to make an informed decision?
SJ:One way to circumnavigate this dilemma is using a cart or food truck system but food must be cooked frequently and brought in often to avoid looking as though you’re selling leftovers.

Mise En Place thinks that it is still possible to showcase fresh with a limited menu – use certain equipment within a car t / food truck system. However if you have a larger menu, perhaps consider this system for display or for placing quick-moving items that you can replenish regularly.

MEP: When designing the restaurant area within the grocers; how can operators best dictate the flow of traffic?
SJ:That’s a good question. Each store is different; some stores are weekend stores, some weekday stores (as in more people patronise either weekend or weekday, depending on the store’s location and demographics surrounding it). Understand how most customers typically browse your store. Focus on meals through the day; not just one meal (breakfast, lunch, dinner). Then focus on local flavors, local farm fresh items, and fast service. If you are allocated a small space; I suggest freshly prepared, freshly boxed and portable items as your best bet. With a larger space, you can use a ‘line’ and allow customers to customise items into a perfect entrée and meal.

MEP: How can operators ensure an open kitchen and cooked food display area call out to customers?
SJ:Keep it simple, keep it clean! Keep it fresh, with a display consumers want to see the prep, see the freshness, smell the freshness and then want to customize items.

Another element MEP wishes to highlight is the training of staff. A cheerful disposition is non-negotiable, able to follow a systematic workflow considering the fast-moving goods and tight space. Even their plating skills should be evaluated before star ting work especially in places where staff scoop and plate what the customer chooses.

The grocerant idea is not just a novelty but holds great promise for our daily food expenses. It can provide satisfaction for many levels of budgets yet helping you keep check on consuming healthy and nutritionally substantial foods. Plus, in developing countries, shopping malls are pretty much inescapable so why not we just hit a mall; get our clothes, groceries, everything else and settle down to dinner?

bs_article2_11Many thanks to Steven Johnson for taking time to share his experience and expertise in the area of operating Grocerants. He can be contacted at: