by Adam Zack — February 10, 2016At every store I visit I ask, “What is your signature item?” In other words, what are you selling that your customers can’t get anywhere else? They talk about, crave it and will make a special trip to your store just to get it. Very seldom is the answer “We don’t have any.” Some answers have been: Our chicken salad. Our marinated tri tip. Our sausage. Our bakery. Our carne asada. Our guacamole. Our pico de gallo sauce. Our cookies. Our soups. Our brownies. Our BBQ. You get the idea, there have been lots, and they are really good products.So yay! Wooo! We have signature items. And even better, they invariably have a great story about how the item was originally created and how it became so popular. Like “My grandma was carrying a bowl of chocolate chip cookie dough and she tripped over the cat. The dough flew out of her hands, landed on the counter into a big pile of coconut and macadamia nuts. Having been raised in the depression, she was super frugal and instead of throwing the batch out she made the cookies anyway. They were so good we started baking them at the store and now we can barely keep them in stock.” You go grandma.So then I ask, “How are you identifying these cookies? Do they have...read more
by Adam Zack — January 28, 2016I just spent the past several hours with the owner of a couple stores in Northern California. They stores focus on super fresh foods, community, locally sourced produce, employees and family. They are very well run and would be my neighborhood store if I lived in the area. One of those places where the owner greets me “Hey Big A, how’s it hanging? Too bad your Chargers sucked it again this week. Maybe they will have better luck in L.A.!” Whereby I could say “F-you pal! You’re Niners aren’t much better.” We could have a laugh and talk about what local farmer had brought in to the produce department today. So why does this particular grocer even need any help from us at DW Green? Because he has stories, LOTS of stories to tell that will differentiate him from the competition. Stories of how he invested in a farm that grows for his store and how he helped plant the crop and brought it to his stores. How a chicken farmer brought him his first air chilled, organic chicken and after he roasted it took all the other chicken out of his store. How he infuses his signature tri-tip roast with a blackened seasoning that is made in such small batches by a little company that ...read more
by Adam Zack — January 21, 2016The last three days were spent visiting a great client-partner in San Antonio and attending Harold Lloyd’s (*note, Harold is one of the most ardent supermarket supporters, teachers and consultants in America) M4 marketing share group of some of the very best retailers in the U.S. and Canada. The independent spirit to smack down the dirge of the big chains was proudly obvious. While chain stores nervously try and protect their market share against the independents by forbidding photos in their stores and firmly refusing to share ideas and information, our group of 25 independents went into kind of an obvious 007 not-quite-stealth mode. We were kind of like an amnesiatic 007, with Harold clearly disavowing us as he instructed us on how to take photos discreetly. And as much as the big chains are the Goliath to our David, their large bank accounts and competitive desire to annhilate each other results in some pretty darn good ideas that us independents can use for inspiration and improve on.So we unite as independent bastards. (well, maybe not bastards, but who can’t appreciate the Inglorious Bastards effort against the Nazis? Haven’t seen the m...read more
by Adam Zack — January 14, 2016I’ve talked and talked (and written and written) on the importance of treating employees like they really are family, being involved and aware of their lives outside of the store and how doing so will pay huge dividends in terms of employee loyalty, retention and the service they provide your customers. While finding these great people to spread your message of food love and happiness to your customers is not an easy task, it is done by the best grocers consistently and with thought. So how can I help you pick the best applicant among the dozens who may be applying for anything from a courtesy clerk to a store manager? Bob LaBonne Jr, President and CEO of the employee focused LaBonne’s Markets in Connecticut shared a question that is asked during every applicant interview at LaBonne’s. It puts the future (or maybe rejected, depending on the answer…) employee in a position to really consider what great customer service is and gives Bob and his team insight on what this applicant considers to be outstanding service. The question asks what would you do if a customer had a particularly bad experience at your store and how would you make it right. Bob couldn’t have ...read more
by Adam Zack — January 6, 2016A New Year’s resolution is a tradition, most common in the Western Hemisphere but also found in the Eastern Hemisphere, in which a person makes a promise to do an act of self-improvement or something slightly nice, such as opening doors for people beginning from New Year’s Day. – WikipediaIf you’re anything like me, resolutions are easy to make but very hard to maintain. They are things that I know I need to do to be a better person, but when it comes to actually doing what I need to, I find that I am excellent at resolving to find an excuse not to do them. Those three-times-per-week trips to the gym last a few weeks and then turn into two, or one, or during “busy” weeks none! That eating better/healthier lasts about a week. Stop procrastinating! Yeah, I’ll start that one next week.But in our meaningful and underappreciated grocery business New Year’s Resolutions are perfect for our stores. A list of 5 to 10 resolutions, decided on by a group of your employees and managers, is a great start to the year and a great way to communicate and identify goals to continue to...read more
by Adam Zack — December 16, 2015Everyone likes to receive gifts, whether they admit it or not. We all know people who say, “No, no, I don’t need ANYTHING! Don’t get me a Christmas present!” But when the time comes and everyone else is exchanging a gift, they get a little tinge of “Well, a little something to open would have been nice…” It’s natural to feel gratitude and admiration when someone gets you a small gift that is well thought out and meaningful. It’s wonderful to be thought of. It makes you feel special and appreciated. So imagine how much loyalty and positive word of mouth you would generate for your store if you delivered or mailed a special gift to your BEST customers. Something like 80% of profits come from your top 10% customers, so they are actually giving you a gift all year round. If you don’t have a customer loyalty program, it’s a little tougher to do, but with your cashiers and customer service staff in on the plan, you can identify those customers and WOW! them with a gift at Christmas. Maybe pick your top 50 or 100 customers that spend the most in your store throughout the year. Hand address and sign each card, with a short message o...read more
by Adam Zack — December 9, 2015OK, so I am generally not a very emotional guy. Death and tragedy are as much a part of life as birth and ecstasy. Things happen, and when the good things happen I feel great and when the bad things happen I feel sad. No huge swings in my emotional pendulum. So imagine my surprise, when the other night Linda says “You gotta hear this new Adele song ‘Hello’.” OK fine. I’m not a huge Adele fan, although I think she is an exceptional talent with a voice that is incredibly powerful. Her music seems to reach very widely, from punk rockers to old folks. Anyway, I have respect and admiration, but no CDs in my collection or albums in my iTunes. She puts it on, and without even really deciphering the lyrics the song just moves me to emotion like nothing I have ever heard before. I don’t know how she did it. It gets my eyes all watering and before you can say “Bambi’s mom’s dead” I’m brought to emotional tears bordering on sobs. And it happens every time I hear that song now! Good Lord, I sure hope it doesn’t come on when I’m at the gym or watching football with friends.So the point of the story is how something you see, hear or experi...read more
by Adam Zack — November 25, 2015While “Bigger” is better with a lot of things (pay raise, glass of great wine, piece of cake, parade honoring you, discount on your cable bill, muscles from working out, and family), “Bigger” can really be the opposite of better with a lot of things (pay cut, hairy mole between your eyes, headache from too many big glasses of wine, pants needed due to the big piece of cake, and family). At Thanksgiving especially, it’s important to remember and recognize that it’s not the big things that bring the most happiness and fulfillment to our lives, it’s the dozens of little things that contribute (some imperceptibly) to our happiness that that if taken away would leave us with a big hole in our lives. It takes some reflection to realize what the little things are because they are the most easily taken for granted.10 Little Things That I Appreciate Most
- The way my girlfriend Linda does so many chores in our household without complaining, ever.
- How DW always seems to know the right time to say something that makes others feel good, loved and appreciated.
- My brother Matt for being consistent and never taking the bait when I turn
by Adam Zack — November 19, 2015Once upon a time, I was an impressionable young 15-year-old box boy at my family’s grocery store. I didn’t act like a boss’ kid, and I sure as hell didn’t get treated like it. We had to abide by the rules like everyone else. I can still hear my manager telling me to cut my hair, tighten my tie and for God’s sake stop talking to the service deli girls! I liked my job, really liked the customers and loved the people I worked with. I wanted to learn more, do more, have more responsibility. I was always fascinated with the checkout process and although I was just a lowly boxboy, persuaded one of the cashiers (who I am good friends with to this day) to let me check on her register. We joke now that if the checkstand manager had found out we would have both been fired on the spot. Letting someone check on your register that wasn’t even trained was a definite no-no. Luckily for both of us that endeavor to learn went undetected. She went on to become checkstand manager, then store manager and for the past 15 years or so has been Human Resources Manager with an eagle’s eye out for young boxboys trying to persuade impressionable cashiers to let them check out customers.The point I have ta...read more
by Adam Zack — November 12, 2015Ok, so last week I talked about why customers leave your business (68% due to employee attitude or indifference, remember?) and how empowering them is the key to the positive attitude and elimination of indifference. I know, I know, it’s an easy thing to say, “Just empower your employees, easy! Done!”, but we are not here to give some blanket statement with no details on how to actually do that. That would be just plain dumb and unhelpful. So, as promised here are some ways to empower (definition: To enable or permit.) your employees to be outstanding, involved, creative honest and caring.
- Give them direct contact to management and owners: The grocery business has traditionally been a top-down management structure. The old “You’ll know what you know when I want you to know it” style needs to be turned upside down. They need to be comfortable to contact you with their honest feedback without fear that they will get in any kind of trouble. Suggestion boxes, email addresses, idea exchange groups and employee involvement committees are simple and effective.
- Do an annual employee survey: Really think