So, I’m re-reading the Editor’s Letter in Food & Wine that I referenced last week, and another blog topic emerges. Bam! He refers to a fantastic chef and restaurateur, Jonathan Waxman. He pretty much created “California Cuisine” (Fresh, innovative, lighter style) at Michael’s in Santa Monica in the late ‘70’s. He has restaurants now in New York, Atlanta, Nashville and San Francisco. He’s been a judge on Top Chef. The guy has street cred and seems like a really good dude. The restaurant industry is notoriously hard on employees. Screaming chefs, moody wait staff, plenty of drama and lots of hard work at low pay. So, in the column he quotes Waxman as saying one of his keys to success is “treat others the way we want to be treated.” Sounds great, right? We want to be treated with respect, kindness, dignity, appreciation. Who doesn’t? You have to be some kind of moron or a-hole to want to be treated different than the basics of being a good person. It’s really too general. It’s a no-brainer. It’s like saying “be nice” or “play fair”.Someone much smarter than me, many years ago, expounded on the “treat others the way you want to be treated” when he sai...read more
You can’t manufacture soul, no matter the investment.
I was sitting on the beach in San Diego last Sunday reading food magazines -Food & Wine, Bon Apetit, Milk Street. (OK, I’ll admit it – I was also reading People Magazine – don’t judge). It’s food that brings us together and is what truly I love. My wife was reading the Food & Wine editor’s letter and said “Hey, this is written with a reference toward restaurants, but it really applies to what you blog about regarding grocery stores.”So I read it, and she was right on. The gist of the letter is that he was at this new mall opening in Manhattan – lots of fancy food, glitz, famous chefs. It sounds like it was a really big deal. Getting out of the event turned into quite the fiasco, but he finally made his way to a favorite neighborhood restaurant. “That whiplash evening reinforced my conviction that you can’t manufacture soul, no matter the investment. The best restaurants [think grocers] don’t just serve memorable food; they’re community and neighborhood oases, offering humanity and hospitality that smooth frayed edges at day’s end.” – Hunter Lewis, Editor, Food & Wine, July 2019. That struck me as to what being the loca...read more
But they are not dumb and they want the best overall experience for their dough.
My dad always read Consumer Reports magazine. Doing his research before a major purchase was passed on to me. We check what their ratings are before any major purchase. New dishwasher? A Consumer Reports Best Buy. Big Screen LED TV? Check the ratings. Time for a new clothes dryer? What CR thinks matters. For those who don’t know, Consumer Reports is the world’s largest non-profit product testing organization. They are 100% funded by members and subscribers and accept no advertising and no free products. It’s about as unbiased opinion as you can get. I’ve been a member for most of my adult life. So I was especially interested in the issue I received yesterday that heralded “96 GROCERS RATED: WHO’S FRESH, HEALTHY & LOW PRICED” Grocers from all over the country were rated on a 100 point scale in 13 categories, ranging from Cleanliness of Store to Variety of International Products. Over 75,000 CR members participated in the survey. Check it out here: Consumer Reports Best Grocers >...read more
Non-verbal communication often says way more about you, or someone else, than what is actually said.
Many years ago I was introduced to the owner of a very prolific wine store. I had always heard that this guy was a full-on ass, but I was skeptical that it could be 100% true, as I had great respect for his store and his fantastic employees. As I was introduced I extended my hand to shake his and he barely grasped mine while at the same time looking away, effectively dismissing me as 100% unimportant and forgettable. Turns out he really was an ass, but it made an impression on me that I continue to remember to this day: Non-verbal communication often says way more about you, or someone else, than what is actually said.I was reminded of it again when I had a meeting with DW and some new potential customers. “Did you notice that that guy never made eye contact?’ said DW. Eye contact demonstrates interest and sincerity. It shows that you are listening. It relates honesty. It communicates in ways words can’t. There are many other non-verbal ways that communicate disinterest in a conversation – holding up your hand as if to say “Stop, you have bored me to the limit” or a nice, big yawn or even the circling of your fingers as if to say “Wrap it up, fella!” T...read more
For a very long time I have felt that holding a grudge and never forgiving is one of the biggest contributors to your own personal misery. Just not letting go of the slights and infractions brought against you by some a-hole ultimately just keeps the negativity within your own personal sphere. Like shooting a slingshot inside the Cone of Silence, it only bounces back and keeps hurting you. Contrary to what most people think, I’ve learned that forgiveness is not saying that how you were wronged, or who wronged you, is OK. It’s moving past it – letting it go. So when the theory that having a chip on your shoulder is actually a good thing was told to me, I was conflicted. Chip on your shoulder means you’re holding a grudge. That you’re daring someone to knock it off your shoulder so you can beat the crap out of them, or more eloquently, get your revenge. It’s a negative emotion that motivates you to be better.Some great athletes cite a chip on their shoulder as their motivation to achieve ultimate success. Tom Brady is the one that comes to mind first. He was picked number 199 in the 2000 NFL draft in round six. He felt he was better than that, and he was obviously right, but he used that as personal motiva...read more
Almost anyone in the grocery business knows what shrink is. Not to be confused with Seinfeld era “I was in the pool!” shrinkage or Honey, I Shrunk the Kids!, shrink are products that we pay for and for some reason do not get paid for. It’s foods that go out of date and get thrown in the trash or donated. It’s things that are shoplifted and internally stolen. It’s items that we are charged for on an invoice but we magically do not receive. Like getting charged for 50 pounds of salmon and only receiving 48. It’s a cashier charging for a regular cucumber when the customer actually bought an organic one. It’s a butcher not trimming meat correctly or a baker that burns a batch of cookies. Since we are dealing with so many perishable items, and so many items in general, shrink in the grocery business is notoriously higher that most of the retail sector. Over double that of other retail business, according to a 2013 study by the University of Florida. The best retailers track it and review it regularly. In a business where 2% to 5% net profit is considered pretty darn good, reducing shrink from the industry average of 2.5% to 2% increases profit 20%. It all drops to the bottom line. So ...read more
What were they thinking? Why are they doing this? Who talks to them? We don’t. It’s like it’s them against us. Those types of comments happen every single day when there’s a communication gap in an organization. Even though I am a store owner, plenty of times I’ve been in a conversation with employees and they say something like “What are they going to do?” And by They, they mean leadership, and that means that They is Me. I’ll often ask the employee “Who are they?” and they’ll respond with something like “You know, you guys.” Especially in times of difficulty and uncertainty, the ‘They-We’ gap widens. It’s great leaders (and great communicators) who in good times and bad have teams that ask questions and make statements in terms of ‘we’ and ‘us’. They is the impersonal entity that makes all the decisions for the business, and when things don’t go right, well, they get what they deserve, don’t they?Back in the 50’s there was a horror movie called Them! about giant ants that ate people. Some of you old timers (Mr. Mayne??) may even have seen it in the...read more
Yesterday, May 27, 2019, was Memorial Day. I’ve always been both intrigued and moved by the dedication and sacrifice that the men and women of our armed forces have shown over history. Their selflessness and love of our country has brought me to tears many times during documentaries, films and books. The bravery of putting yourself in harm’s way – and hundreds of thousands of times paying the ultimate price with their life, is unfathomable beyond words.DW’s blog especially reminded me of that last week. Nearly everyone over 30 years old has been affected by war in some way. At one point in 1945 over 12 million Americans served in the military! I have a store in San Diego, an area of the country with very deep military history and prominent current presence. Like all good independent markets, we offered a discount of 10% (sounds like such a measly discount, I know) to all military, first responders and their families all weekend. Yesterday, I was at the front of the store, helping bag groceries for customers on such a busy day, and a Navy officer in his white uniform came through with his wife. I packed up his groceries and as he was leaving, I thanked him for his service. We have a lot of Navy and Marines customers and it’s typi...read more
There’s a movie from 1958 called The Fly. It starred Vincent Price and is the story of a scientist who invents this machine that teleports objects from one place to another. Not wanting to stop with just objects, he experiments with animals and finally people. The story goes terribly wrong when a common fly gets in the teleporting chamber as it’s about to teleport the scientist and the result at the other end is a man with a fly’s head and a fly with a man’s head. The most memorable line is the fly-bodied tiny monstrosity screaming in a tiny fly-sized voice “Help meeee! Help meeee!” It’s a phrase that’s been repeated in reference to the film for decades, and you always picture that tiny fly with the human head. Of course, by then, it’s too late to help the fly-man, and the only help that could possibly be given is a quick smack with the fly swatter.More often today, asking for help is seen as a sign of weakness. Very often in our grocery business (and pretty much in any business) we avoid asking for help. Even when help is offered – “Let me know what I can do to help.” “If you need any help, let me know.” “How can I help?” – it’s by far more likely that it will be met with...read more
There are scores of employees that treat your store like it was their own.
We bought a house exactly one year ago in Oceanside, CA. Since moving to the beach in 2011 we had rented a home. And we were good renters. Kept it very clean, took care of repairs, and treated it like our own home. Well, not exactly like our own home. There were little things – a missing baseboard piece, cleaning the upstairs windows, replacing some torn screens – that we just didn’t do because, well, it wasn’t our house. We were renting. As the owner of the house we now live in we take care of all the little things. We are fully invested and committed. While we were good renters, there are renters out there – probably 10-15% who are just crappy people, and therefore crappy renters. They don’t give a #$@% about your property. Their mentality is that they pay rent and their obligation ends there.I look at employees and can really relate them to renters. We give them a safe place to work, pleasant conditions, fair wages and benefits, respect and appreciation. But they’re still renters. How do you get renters to treat your store like they own it? Is it even possible without actually giving them an ownership stake? It’s possible, but it’s rare. When they clock out and end thei...read more