Saturday, May 3, 2008

Independent Grocer Memo: 'Romancing' Food and the Stores, Innovation and Customer Care Keys to Success for Vancouver Island B.C.'s Quality Foods

Independent grocer-partners John Briuolo and Ken Schley want their customers to share their love of food, their 10 supermarkets, and new, innovative and quality food products.

The owner-partners of Vancouver Island B.C., Canada's 10-store Quality Foods upscale supermarket chain share this love by as they put it, "romancing food and the store." The QF food stores are basic full-service supermarkets as well as specialty-oriented markets

This act of romancing food and the stores includes finding new and innovative specialty food and grocery products the partners can be the first to introduce to shoppers in their 10 stores' market regions.

The romance also includes the entire experience of food, food shopping, and how the 10 Quality Food stores are designed and merchandised, which is always with the customer in mind.

For example, one of the 10 Quality Foods supermarkets has a child care area in it where shoppers can leave their kids under supervision while the shop. The child care area has a theatre area where the children can watch educational and animated videos. There's also a games room where the kids can play various games, and a computer room where they can use the computers under the watchful eye of a store employee, or member of the Q-team.

The stores also have comfortable in-store cafes with big chairs similar to those in Starbucks' cafes, where they serve premium quality coffee drinks and baked goods.

Another innovation is the "Daily Special" in which customers are allowed to choose a group of products--whatever they want within a limit--and get them at a special price for the day. Shoppers can choose their "Daily Special" each time day they shop in the store. It's shoppers' choice.

Even though it's only a 10-store operation, Quality Foods offers full online or Internet grocery shopping, and was the first grocer in Western Canada to do so when it began its online grocery store in 1997.

Quality Foods, or the Q-guys as they're called, also was the very first grocer in Canada to introduce a customer loyalty card program, which nearly ever Canadian supermarket chain now has. Of course... their's is called the "Q-card."

Quality Foods also fills its colorful, weekly advertising circulars (like the one pictured at the top of this piece) with lots of natural-organic and specialty fresh food and grocery products, along with basic foods and groceries at affordable special prices. The ad fliers also are available on the grocer's website so shoppers can download them to make a grocery list, print and take with them to the store, or use when shopping online.

Quality Foods also has amazing employee loyalty. About 70% of all its employees have been with the grocer for five years or more. This is do to two things: the employee wage and incentive package the Q-guys offer is superior to what most other grocers--chains and independents alike--offer in Canada, and that package includes a generous profit-sharing plans for every company employee, regardless if they are part time or full time.

As part of the "romancing the store" philosophy, Quality Foods supermarkets also excel in merchandising.

The goal say the partners is to make the stores as easy to shop as possible. This includes grouping products together throughout the stores in a "meal centric" manner--a display of pasta, specialty and natural pasta sauces, gourmet cheeses, fresh-baked breads, cookbooks and the like, for example. When a shopper sees the display, they have a immediate meal solution before their eyes, and even a cookbook that tells them how to cook the premium foods.

The 10 Quality Foods markets also carry lots of natural and organic produce, meats, perishable foods and grocery products, and keep adding more, according to the partners.

Along with a good selection of basic groceries--the stores aren't just for specialty shoppers--there's an extensive selection of specialty, gourmet and ethnic food and grocery items. Many of the specialty and ethnic items are from small, artisanal producers who sell only to Quality Foods basically in the market.

Cheese is another category Quality Foods romances. basic, premiem, domestic and international cheeses are merchandised in super-inviting ways that tease shoppers eyes. The store staff also loves cheese, and that knowledge is something shoppers love as well.

Local foods merchandising is increasingly becoming central to Quality Foods' merchandising philosophy and practice. The stores sell lots of fresh and packaged products produced locally, as well as offering even more that are grown throughout Canada. Local and Canadian-wide food products sold in the stores include fresh meats and produce, grocery products, refrigerated and frozen foods and more.

All 10 Quality Foods supermarkets are on Vancouver Island, and the partners tell Natural~Specialty Foods Memo that although there is demand for them to expand outside the Island, they have no plans to do so in the immediate or near future.

The partners really know Vancouver Island well: the culture of the island and its residents, the demographics, food preferences and more.

The Q-team nurtures and cares for the island's residents (and their customers) with superior service in their stores.

The word you here over and over from the partners and store employees is comfort; that they want to make their customers shopping experience the most comfortable of any store the shoppers have ever spent their hard earned money in.

Like all successful independent grocers, Quality Foods' knows their customers as family--and see themselves and the stores as the purchasing agents and key food education source for customers.

And, the Q-team does both tasks with lots of love for both food in general, how it's presented in their stores--and for their customers.

No comments: