I might just be a grocery store nerd…or is it a snob? (I will debate this and get back to you.) Either way, I get great satisfaction in knowing the ins and outs of my favorite grocery stores, interacting with the staff, and noticing the changes made to layout, shelf placement of products, and the flow of the space. Nerd! I told you.
So, Kysha, what is the best way to know my grocery store even better? The answer is simple: ask the manager. After 20 years of being a personal chef, I’ve gained great insights and relationships at grocery stores over a love of food and the business of food. I’ve been able to do this because, as a service provider, I want the very best for my clients in order to be knowledgeable about their grocery store of choice and to share information with them they otherwise would not know. Intrigued? Read on.
Before we get into what questions you should ask your grocery store manager, I need to remind you—as I remind my clients in our work—the relationship you are creating will evolve over time. The same thing goes for your grocery store manager, so make sure it is a store you frequent most. And perhaps I am being a helicopter editor here, but before you ask any of the following questions, know that a manager is another human being in the service business so a “good morning” and “how are you” goes a long way.
1. When is the store’s delivery day?
You can get specific on this question based on the fresh products you are most interested. Stores have a delivery and stocking day so, needless to say, those are the best days to shop to get the best dairy, produce, meats, and bread products. Conversely, if disorder and mild chaos is not your jam, restocking day might be too triggering.
2. What’s on the shelf that looks good to you?
Now, this question might come later in your relationship when you uncover the manager’s level of personal interest in food, the products the store carries, and the manager uncovers the same of you. Perhaps they might point out fresh-caught fish or a small-batch product from a local maker or a new category of food they now carry, say nut-free butters as the manager knows you are allergic. Having this insight is truly priceless.
3. New product! May I taste it?
This question can go hand-in-hand with the question above. If you are interested in trying a new product before you buy it, simply ask. Depending on the product and the store, the answer will not always be yes—especially if that product is not something unique or if the store cannot weather the cost of letting you try it. You will have the best success at big store chains like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. However, your burgeoning relationship with your store manager might net you a better success rate. Don’t abuse it.
4. Where do you source fresh products—produce, meats?
Locally sourced, sustainable, carbon footprint, organic, and small batch, are more than just buzzwords. Customers are caring more and more about the origins of their foods and grocery stores are responding. You might uncover a local farm or meat producer that, at the very least, can fortify your decision-making and, at the most, can inspire a visit to said farm for more research.
5. Is it possible for you to carry product X?
Special requests are how grocery stores evolve to satisfy their customers. Stores that previously didn’t carry gluten-free, organic, and milk alternatives, will start to as their customer base changes. Whether a dietary need or a preference, you must let the store manager know of your interest in a particular product. Once there is a critical mass of customer demand for it, the store manager may source and stock the shelves with it. Should you have a strong relationship with your store manager, they might ask their distributor for a small quantity just for you. And when the manager offers, buy more than one. And if you can afford it, offer to buy the whole case so the manager doesn’t have to worry about selling the rest or, dare I say, create food waste.
Develop Your New Relationship
This new relationship you are forming with your grocery store manager is not just a one way street either. You will have an impactful connection where you can provide constructive feedback as a customer that may be helpful to the management of the store, whether that be about food or service.
So the next time you make that shopping list, check it twice, and head to your favorite grocery store, get social with it! Ask for your store manager just to introduce yourself, say hello, ask them how they are (helicopter editor), and begin being the customer in the know. Now, I will see you in aisles 1, 5, and 10!