A regional grocery chain that most Americans have never visited was just named the best in the US.
Wegmans ranks as Americans’ favourite grocery chain, according to Market Force Information’s annual survey of the industry, which was released on Tuesday.
This is the second year in a row that Wegmans has earned the top spot — although this year, it was forced to share the crown with Publix, a Southeastern supermarket chain.
With a score of 77% satisfaction, Wegmans and Publix beat out No. 2 Tracer Joe’s and No. 3 H-E-B.
Wegmans began as the Rochester Fruit & Vegetable Company in 1916, and is still headquartered in Rochester, New York.
The chain was founded by brothers Walter and John Wegman and remains 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 its largest stores. The average supermarket stocks slightly more than 40,000 products, according to the Food Marketing Institute.
Wegmans stores generally range from 75,000 to 140,000 square feet.
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 section, 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.
Wegmans serves as a superior employer in the grocery industry. The company offers healthcare coverage for workers as well as college scholarships, paying around $US4.5 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.
“The New York-based chain is expanding steadily and, with a focus on employee training to ensure customers have a great experience, creating superfans eager for a new location to open near their home,” Market Force reported.
Wegmans is currently focused on expanding, with planned openings in New Jersey and Massachusetts later this year. According to Wegmans, more than 4,000 people contacted the company asking for a store in their community in 2015.
The company’s efforts are paying off.
Wegmans reported annual sales of $US7.9 billion in 2015. That’s not as much as Trader Joe’s, where annual sales reached an
estimated $US11.3 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 92.
Of course, the Market Force survey is just one measure of success. Wegmans’ appeal is, to some degree, based on its premium exclusivity — which can result in higher prices. But Trader Joe’s has many loyal customers of its own because of its ability to keep prices extremely low by focusing on its in-house brand instead of offering Wegmans’ wider variety.
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