Wegman’s, an 88-store grocery retailer based in upstate New York, beat out Trader Joe’s to be named America’s favorite food retailer. Market Force Information, a research firm, announced the results of its annual grocery chain survey last week.
Trader Joe’s was named the favorite chain in three of the past four years.
In one sense, such surveys, or competitions, are nonsense, since a significant share of the population is not remotely close enough to the supposedly ‘favorite’ stores to shop in them. And there’s a growing number of single- or two-store operations that, in their localities, stand head-and-shoulders above all their competitors. In some markets, that competition can be made up of a number of chains, some of which – Kroger among them – do a fantastic job at pretty much everything Wegman’s is loved for by its customers.
But Wegman’s does go ‘the extra mile’ in several ways that make it stand out. One example is its in-store food service operations, which often offer several hot food ranges (pizza being a star attraction), a seafood bar, a salad bar, a sushi bar, and, among other things, both pre- and custom-made sandwiches (using rolls and bread fresh-baked in the store). Many salad bars are staffed by friendly, knowledgeable employees who will custom-make any kind of salad they’re asked to – and they can offer suggestions for salads a shopper may never have considered.
All the items in the prepared foods/salads area can be packed to take home or enjoyed in the store, in seating areas usually sizable enough to comfortably accommodate several hundred diners.
The stores also offer ready-to-cook meals – such as corned beef and cabbage – with all the ingredients assembled in a single package.
The chain’s in-store baking sections are among the largest and most diverse to be found in American food stores. And you are instantly aware there’s baking going on when you enter the store because the scented air from the baking area is ‘broadcast’ around not just the fresh-baked department but also near the store’s entrance.
Wegman’s is locally-famous in every town it has stores for the range of cakes and cookies it offers, and the expertise of its cake decorators.
Fresh flowers, as well as pre-created arrangements and potted plants, are another favorite with shoppers.
While pharmacies are pretty commonplace in American supermarkets these days, day care centers aren’t – except at Wegman’s. Not all stores have them, but like those that offer dry cleaning services, these little extras give this company’s stores extra cache and, by the way, capture well-deserved extra dollars from shoppers.
Wegman’s stores usually are a good deal larger, at up to 140,000 square feet or so, than competitors, as they need to be to accommodate their extremely wide range of products – including gift offerings for virtually any occasion, wines from around the world and one of the broadest selection of mass-produced and craft beers to be found anywhere.
The stores are easy to get around, too, as the aisles are uncommonly wide – in part in recognition that when they’re busy, they’re very busy, and people need room to maneuver their shopping carts!
Employees are exceptionally well-trained, paid above industry averages and provided such perks as college scholarships. It is highly unlikely you will ever encounter a less-than-wonderfully-friendly, and glad-to-be-there worker, in any of their stores.
It’s equally unlikely you’ll ever encounter less than near-perfect or less than immaculate displays. And the floors always look fresh-swept – because they always are.
Until a few years ago, this family-owned company stayed pretty close, geographically, to its roots, but its lately been stretching itself into new areas, including an upcoming store in New York City and at least two in the state of Virginia.