A regional grocery chain that most Americans have never visited has been named the best in the US — and now, it’s expanding.
On Tuesday, news broke that Wegmans is planning to make a greater push into North Carolina, including considering “multiple sites” in the Raleigh-Durham area, reports Democrat and Chronicle.
Wegmans ranks as Americans’ favourite grocery chain, according to Market Force Information’s annual survey of the industry, which was released in April.
2016 was the first time in four years that Trader Joe’s missed out on the No. 1 spot in Market Force’s survey. The discount chain slipped 5% in customer satisfaction since its win in 2015.
While last year Wegmans didn’t even earn enough votes to make the list, this year the 88-location grocery chain doubled its support — just as the chain prepares to expand. With a score of 76% satisfaction, Wegmans beat out No. 2 Publix and No. 3 Trader Joe’s.
Wegmans was founded in 1916, and it is based in Rochester, New York.
The chain was founded by brothers Walter and John Wegman and is still family-owned, with Danny Wegman serving as CEO and his daughter, Colleen Wegman, serving as president.
Wegmans stores are larger than the average grocery store, emphasising variety and fresh products. The company reports that locations stock 50,000 to 70,000 products — in the largest stores — compared to the slightly more than 40,000 products that Food Marketing Institute reports the average supermarkets stock.
Because they carry more products, Wegmans is usually about 75,000 to 140,000 square feet, with the company emphasising the stores’ “spacious aisles” — in contrast to Trader Joe’s often cramped ones.
The stores also have to be large enough to fit various extras that are foreign to many supermarkets.
Many locations have cafes, pizzerias, sushi bars, and buffets, plus seating areas for 100 to 300 people where customers can eat their food.
The chain is also known for its extensive beer market, with a large selection of craft brews. Some locations even have walk-in beer lockers.
Many customers love Wegmans because of the dedicated customer service.
“Its focus on employee training to ensure customers have the best experience has been a winning strategy that creates superfans eager for a new location to open near their home,” reports Market Force.
In return for employees’ dedication, Wegmans serves as a superior employer in the grocery industry. The company offers healthcare coverage for workers as well as college scholarships, paying around $4.5 million in tuition assistance to employees each year.
All of these factors combine to create an army of Wegmans fans, responsible for the grocery chain’s top ranking. In 2015, the company reported that 7,300 customers contacted Wegmans to report how much they enjoyed their shopping experience or the way employees treated them.
Wegmans is currently focused on expanding, with planned openings in states including
Maryland and Virginia later this year, in addition to its plan to expand in North Carolina.
According to Wegmans, more than 4,000 people contacted the company asking for a store in their community in 2015. These eager Wegmans’ fans include North Carolinians, with a page called ‘Bring Wegmans to the NC Triangle Area — Please’ earning 830 likes.
The company’s efforts are paying off.
Wegmans reported annual sales of $7.9 billion in 2015. That’s not as much as Trader Joe’s, where annual sales reached an
estimated $11.3 billion, according to Packaged Facts. But it’s pretty impressive when comparing the number of locations: Trader Joe’s has
more than 400 stores, while Wegmans has just 88.
However, to compete in North Carolina, Wegmans will find itself facing off against new rivals. Kroger has 160 stores in the state, while Publix has 14 and plans to open another 20 in the coming year, reports reports Democrat and Chronicle.