NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Large or small, the four retail chains chosen to receive National Retail Beef Backer Awards this year have this in common: unwavering dedication to their customers.
“That’s what this whole thing, our operation, is based on — customer service,” Mike Smith, corporate meat supervisor at Broulim’s Fresh Foods, told SN. “It’s one way we can compete with the large chains and large competition.”
This is the second consecutive year that Rigby, Idaho-based Broulim’s — a seven-unit independent — has earned the National Retail Beef Backer Award in the competition’s independent category.
Three other retailers receiving the award during the 2012 Cattle Industry Annual Convention and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association trade show here this month were Haggen Food & Pharmacy, Bellingham, Wash., in the midsized chain category; Harris Teeter, Matthews, N.C., in the large chain category; and Safeway, Pleasanton, Calif., taking the Innovator of the Year award.
Broulim’s has taken advantage of training programs offered by its regional beef council, under the auspices of the Beef Check-Off program.
“We want our people to be able to go one-on-one with customers to help them with cooking advice, for example, and to answer any of their questions,” Smith said.
Clement Stevens, Haggen’s senior vice president of sales and marketing, also emphasized the importance of training and service.
When the 28-unit chain launched its Double R Ranch brand beef last year, Stevens said that the company’s number one priority was “to put our employees through an intense training program so that they could educate our customers on the quality points of the product — sustainable, local, USDA Choice, selected by Haggen’s buyers.
“The highlight of the launch was bringing ranchers into the store to take tours and interact with our customers,” Stevens added.
In-store cooking demos, too, were encouraged.
Addressing another customer concern — about where their food comes from — Haggen emphasizes that it works exclusively with local ranchers, most of them small operators.
“Sourcing local beef speaks to Haggen’s commitment to the community,” Stevens said.
Like Broulim’s, Haggen has worked very closely with its state beef council to bring training to its meat managers and to stay on top of the latest data and consumer trends that can help them sell more beef.
Most recently Broulim’s has taken advantage of NCBA’s Beef Alternative Merchandising training, Smith told SN.
“That was in October… held for our meat managers who then took the training back to their employees” Smith said. “That recent training involved separating out individual muscles from the top sirloin, making new cuts such as the sirloin petit roast and sirloin center steak.”
Smith added that he and his supplier can always get Idaho Beef Council reps to come out an talk to his meat cutters and associates.
“They also offer lots of POS materials, case dividers, even pop-up timers, and we make good use of them.”
Broulim’s’ promotions such as a “Buy a Bundle, Save a Bundle” are designed to give customers a price break if they buy say a 10-pound or 20-pound bundle of different cuts of top sirloin. Smith concluded that three factors have made his program a success: excellent customer service, value and quality. “They all go together,” he said.
In choosing Safeway as Innovator of the Year, judges cited the 1,694-unit chain’s having built “the largest beef brand,” Ranchers Reserve, in the marketplace, and also said the chain consistently delivers to consumers’ expectations.
Harris Teeter was lauded for its consumer research and for understanding its customers’ desires.
An independent judging committee of retail industry professionals selected the winners based on submission of criteria in a variety of promotional partnerships, beef merchandising and education programs. The judges also took into consideration the retailers’ support of Beef Check-Off-funded initiatives.