Beef Backer Award Winners Discuss Service, Promotions

DENVER Great customer service and innovative meat department promotions are two of the qualities that define the winners of the 2010 Retail Beef Backer Award, honored here by the National Cattlemen's Beef Association at the Cattle Industry Annual Convention and NCBA trade show in February. The biggest thing that sets us apart is that we're available to the customer. We have meat cutters on-site in

DENVER — Great customer service and innovative meat department promotions are two of the qualities that define the winners of the 2010 Retail Beef Backer Award, honored here by the National Cattlemen's Beef Association at the Cattle Industry Annual Convention and NCBA trade show in February.

“The biggest thing that sets us apart is that we're available to the customer. We have meat cutters on-site in every store,” said Mike Smith, corporate meat supervisor for Rigby, Idaho-based Broulim's Fresh Foods, which won in the Independent Retailer category.

Smith noted that customer service has become more important in Broulim's meat departments as more shoppers — young and old alike — seek cooking advice.

The departments are also always ready to lend a hand, offering their own store-made marinades and spice rubs such as burgundy pepper and carne asada.

“I feel like any customer at Broulim's knows that they aren't going to be left in the dark with anything as far as cooking methods or suggestions for meals,” Smith said.

Broulim's has also developed some great ways to keep their customers engaged. At one event, the agriculture school at a local university brought a certified Angus cow and calf to a Broulim's location. Kids got a close-up look while local beef producers talked with customers.

And, this summer, contestants from throughout southeast Idaho will head to Broulim's to participate in the third-annual Grillmaster Beef Challenge. Each of the company's seven locations hosts its own cookoff — contestants bring a grill and a recipe, and Broulim's supplies the meat. Winners are selected by a panel of local judges.

“Then, we take the winner from each store and bring them together for another Grillmaster cookoff,” Smith said. “The winner receives a really nice grill as well as a cookout for 20 people. It's turned out to be a really popular event in our community.”

Offering excellent value and superior service in the meat department is also a key competitive edge for Joan and Ted Majdecki, owners of two Sentry Foods locations in Menomonee Falls and West Allis, Wis. Keeping that competitive edge has been crucial. A 50,000-square-foot Pick'n Save across the street from one of their locations recently became a 100,000-square-foot Super Pick 'n Save, and a 200,000-square-foot Woodman's warehouse store opened four miles away.

When Sentry adopted the slogan “Best Meat in Town,” the Majdeckis ran with it, even more aggressively than other Sentry owners.

“We've been putting a ‘super coupon’ [in our ad] every week, and I've just been pushing meat,” Ted told SN. Recent coupons have offered New York strip steaks at $4.99 per pound or tenderloins at $4.99 per pound.

Joan added that they had given their meat cutters the opportunity to attend NCBA training sessions that offered new ideas for price-conscious shoppers, such as less-expensive cuts, like Denver steaks, or recipes that incorporate ground beef.

“We feel that it's always good to learn new things,” Joan said.

The extra training pays off when shoppers need help. “Our meat cutters are always advising people,” she said. “Customers will come up to the case, and see something they've never seen before, and ask for a recipe for it, or some grilling tips, or different ideas for what to serve with it.”

And, one of their cutters, “Howie,” is always putting together kebab kits, pot pies and other recipes.

“It's a really good thing to help customers get ideas,” she said.

In addition to Sentry and Broulim's, awards were given to HAC, operator of Homeland Stores, United Stores and Country Mart in Oklahoma and Kansas, and Matthews, N.C.-based Harris Teeter. Harris Teeter won in the Large Chain Retailer category, while HAC won Innovator of the Year, thanks to its aggressive campaign designed to launch the Red River Ranch Angus Beef Brand.