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Listen Up, part 2

by Adam Zack — February 15, 2017

“Can I finish my story?”

“Can I finish my story?”

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” –Stephen R. CoveyAbout 18 months ago I wrote about a guy who during any conversation just had to finish the other person’s sentences. It’s one of the most annoying habits – and it really is just a bad habit – that someone can have. I’ve noticed it a lot lately with a young guy and a lady I know. It’s a combination of incredibly poor manners and even poorer listening skills. I struggle with the urge to reach out with a quick smack to change the behavior. Or just roll my eyes. A good friend of mine actually gets this pissed off look on his face and says “Can I finish my story?” when people cut him off before he’s done talking. So the question here is how can you effectively and tactfully point out the habit and give the lesson that listening is one of the greatest skills and most important tools for success? How can we as managers be better listeners and teachers? In the Heart of Leadership class by Amba Gale, if someone in the group interrupted (or even got up to use the bathroom) during her lesson, instead of just ignoring the disruption and going on, she w...
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When To Say When

by Adam Zack — February 8, 2017

Adam Zack

There’s no shame in failure

New items, campaigns, programs and initiatives are the keys to growth in our grocery business. To be successful they need great planning, thorough communication, coordinated execution and the patience for it to get established and grow some roots. It’s not easy and it’s not inexpensive. Too often a great product is just put on the shelf or in the case with little or no signage, story telling or promotion. No one is surprised when 30 days later very few have sold, or it goes out of code and like that, it’s buh-bye, never to be seen again. If only someone had loved and nurtured it, it could have been rookie of the year, or at least been an alternate on the all-star team. But that’s not what this is about. Let’s assume that we do all the right things. We like the product, promote it, tell it’s story and to our surprise it still just sits there. It doesn’t resonate with the customer and we start feeling bad for it. It’s a failure. The shame. As leaders, we need to embrace failure like we do success. Well over 50% of the new items and programs we try won’t be around to see 2018. And that’s OK, because failure, when executed well, is the result of trying something new. There is no shame in failure when...
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Do You Hear What I Hear

by Adam Zack — February 1, 2017

Perpetrator of bad listening

Perpetrator of bad listening

Recently we were asked by a store to present our marketing, design and web capabilities. The presentation required flights and a rental car and a full day of travel. During a pre-trip phone call I heard the marketing director say, “Of course we know that there’s travel expense that we expect to get charged for.” The key word here is “heard”, because when we submitted the travel expense for reimbursement we were answered that they would never have thought of reimbursing travel expenses. Never. So DW wondered if maybe my hearing was going bad. Was there too much hair growing in my ears? Nope, I checked. A few stragglers maybe, but not enough to obstruct the ear canal. Maybe I was drunk? Nope, it was an 11:00 a.m. phone call. On a weekday. In winter. So maybe I was just the perpetrator of bad listening. Hearing, but not listening, jumping to conclusions and assuming (making a royal ASS out of U and ME). In any case, one of the takeaways of the experience is a thing that you NEVER do, which made my mind wander to things you never do (or at least should never do):
  1. Wash your rental car before returning it.
  2. Tug on Superman’s cape or spit into the wind....
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But what have you done for me lately?

by Adam Zack — January 24, 2017

Let them know how much you appreciate them

Let them know how much you appreciate them

It’s all about instant gratification, right? To quote the Ramones “We want the world, and we want it now.” Businesses and employees alike are under the constant pressure to please now. Right now. More and more, what you did last year, last month, last week and even yesterday is forgotten. As a business, we have invested thousands of hours and many years working on the little things that we hope will build a foundation of loyalty with our customers. But with the barrage of alluring messages from competitors, our years of effort depreciate pretty fast. Without constant reinforcement, reminders and exceptional service our customers memory becomes fuzzy and fades to black quicker than ever. You may have the best butcher in town but one disappointment raises an eyebrow. The second casts serious doubts and anything after that you have lost that customer no matter how long you have served the family. Employees seem to have an even shorter leash. For years you have given 100%, sparked innovation and ideas, helped with the evolution of your store and made substantial contributions to sales and profits. But due to the increasing pressure on financials, those year...
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Who’s your Rock Star?

by Adam Zack — January 18, 2017

Adam Zack

Many chefs are fickle?

Our rock stars have traditionally been, well, real rock stars. Musical idols that turn the girls knees to Jell-O and guys chartreuse with envy. Sports heroes who leave you slack jawed at their sight. Tiny actors that are bigger than life onscreen. Just this past weekend I was in San Francisco for a show by the rock star Rhett Miller*. So I’m coming out of the men’s room, open the door and standing there ready to come in (and cut the line, which you can do if you’re a rock star) is non other than Rhett Miller. I blurt out “Rhett!” like some kind of dummie, and he says “Hey, how you doing?” Great, now that I have got to hold the bathroom door for a rock star, thinking how jealous Linda is going to be when I tell her. Which she was.In our grocery business we have the opportunity to create rock stars within our organization. It’s an especially ripe opportunity with our chefs and butchers, and to a lesser extent with produce managers, wine and specialty food buyers. The Food Network turned a whole batch of chefs and home cooks into rock stars just by branding them. Bobby Flay, Wolfgang Puck, Ina Garten, Gordon Ramsey, Guy Fieri? All food rock stars that have done an incredible job of branding themselves...
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Dogs Go Shopping

by Adam Zack — January 11, 2017

A pet problem?

A pet problem?

Dogs Go ShoppingBy Adam ZackThe biggest issue facing grocers today is not a labor shortage, it’s not inflation, it’s not Amazon. Those things are nothing compared to the Pet Problem. Pets used to be left in the car, or tied up outside the store. Then an old lady in Modesto brought her teacup poodle to the Shop ‘n Save in her purse. When no one said anything, she started putting it in the kids’ seat of her shopping cart. Seth the friendly realtor noticed and though “Damn, I guess it’s OK to bring Muffy in shopping with me.” And he did. The “No Pets Allowed” signs were suddenly too small for dog owners to see and the next thing you know pets were making shopping trips to the malls, Home Depot and grocery stores. It started happening all the time. Grocers, blindsided by this pet frenzy were at a loss. When the pet toting customers were confronted and told that no pets were allowed in grocery stores they became indignant and offended, swearing never to set foot in this dog-hating establishment again! Soon, a movement was started and little red vests for dogs that said “Service Animal” became the “I wish I would have invented that” investment and government, with nothing better ...
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Easier Said Than Done

by Adam Zack — January 4, 2017

Adam Zack

The store manager has set his standards high

The easiest job in the world is the Amateur Critic. You know the guy who goes into a restaurant and complains that his water is too cold or that the music’s too loud. He bitches about not enough (or too much) dressing on the salad and that the grill marks on the steak should be perpendicular to the grain of the meat and not parallel. These type of people next lead into “If this were my restaurant, things would be different around here.” And sometimes the rich ones actually DO buy the restaurant or start their own with the intentions to offer just the right temperature water and perfect amount of dressing with 90 degree parallel grill marks on the steak. They soon find out that there are about 1000 other things that are more important that they didn’t consider and before you know it, there’s an available restaurant space on the market. It’s very similar with food stores. The deli salads have spilled over, the bread section is wiped and for God’s sake why are there only 3 rotisserie chickens in the warmer? The wastebasket in the men’s room is almost full, the soda cans are not turned with the labels facing out, cashier Julia is chewing gum and good God Frank didn’t shave today. This ...
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Trends, Trendy and Just Plain Weird

by Adam Zack — December 28, 2016

Brick & mortar is not going away.

Brick & mortar is not going away.

   As retailers it’s our responsibility to research, anticipate and react to trends that are happening in the food world. What seems crazy today can be a billion dollar industry tomorrow. Remember kale and how it was just a garnish? How about seaweed snacks? Coconut water? Almond Milk? Digital music? So here are some of the trends that I think bear a little thought as we head into 2017. But first, a few that sound a little crazy to most of us:  
  • Skateboarding Pilates – as if skateboarding wasn’t hard enough
  • Cycle Karaoke classes – Riding a stationary bike, sweating and belting out your favorite tunes all at the same time.
  • Mermaid classes – Nothing like strapping on the mermaid tail AND learning how to use it.
  • Stripes – Hopefully vertical and not horizontal. That prison-striped suit adds at least 10 pounds.
  • Weight Loss Sunglasses – apparently the blue lenses make food look less appetizing. You go Japan, you go.
Now some things we should be paying attention to:
  • Wellness Tonics – The Kombucha trend has proved sustainable. Look for t...
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Just Say Nope

by Adam Zack — December 21, 2016

Who respects the yes man?

Who respects the yes man?

The holidays bring joy, appreciation, togetherness, and love.  Warm and fuzzy feelings are what the Christmas is all about, right? But the holidays also bring a very high level of stress. What presents to buy?  What to cook for the meal? Who to invite and who not to invite? Planning and prepping, prepping and planning. It’s almost a full time job. It’s also the time to remember that saying “no” is perfectly acceptable. In fact, it’s healthy and sanity saving. For most of us who are pleasers, we hate to say no. We think that saying no, no matter how much saying yes stresses us or overextends us, disappoints people at this key time of year. But here’s a news flash, and it’s a fact: Saying no does not mean, “I reject you.” It is a legitimate and respectful response to a request. After all, who respects the yes man? What kind of thought goes into a request when every answer is yes?  If we can’t say no then our yes means nothing. We think that just because someone asks something, especially family and close friends, that saying no somehow will offend them. So this season when the questions and requests come flying in: Can we have gluten free stuffing? Can we have prime rib a...
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Special Little things

by Adam Zack — December 14, 2016

Adam Zack

Little things can become big things to your customer.

 When we were kids my brothers and I looked forward to the nights when our dad would be out of town at dinner time. That sounds terrible, but it’s true. Don’t get me wrong, my dad is one of the greatest men you could ever meet —generous, funny, loving, smart — one of the greatest role models ever. Family dinners were always fun, delicious and great bonding times for the five of us. But when he would be at a grocer’s convention, or a board meeting, or just out looking at other stores for ideas we could have the things for dinner that he didn’t like. He didn’t like pizza much at all. (Character flaw or just plain weird? You decide.) But the thing I remember looking forward to the most was having breakfast for dinner. Mind you, this was not a weekly occurrence. Maybe once every couple months at the most should you be wondering who the real weird one is. My mom would make pancakes or waffles and lots of bacon with warm real maple syrup and butter and we would scarf them down like they were our last meal for a month. The pancakes seemed extra fluffy, the bacon more delicious than normal (if that’s even possible) and the syrup just perfectly sweet. Just mom and her thr...
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