Randy Edeker has been with Hy-Vee since starting as a part-time employee as a teenager, but he marked his first year as the company’s chairman and CEO in June. While Hy-Vee is moving forward, he’s not rocking the boat too much.
“It’s just a continuation of the focus that we’d had in the past in the areas that we see as the most important to our business and just continue to improve and get better,” said Edeker.
He cited Hy-Vee’s new Fuel Saver program as one of the company’s biggest accomplishments in the past year. By purchasing the right combination of items, customers have the potential to get free gas each week at Hy-Vee gas stations.
“And so you have a lot of customers that are tweeting and getting on Facebook saying, ‘I bought gas for 20 cents a gallon.’ ‘I paid 50 cents a gallon.’ And so that’s become a bit of a phenomenon and fun to watch,” said Edeker.
Social media has been a cornerstone of Edeker’s vision for Hy-Vee. He oversaw the creation of a social media “war room” at the company headquarters in West Des Moines, Iowa, that is staffed morning to night.
“My goal with this was that if a customer was in our store and they tweeted a comment, positively or negatively, about Hy-Vee that we would be able to respond instantly,” said Edeker.
He related a story of a customer who followed a Hy-Vee recipe that contained an error, causing a mess in her oven, and then posted a complaint about it on the company’s Facebook page at 8 p.m.
“Within 15 minutes I had a vice president of Hy-Vee on the phone with her apologizing for what we did,” said Edeker.
He has similarly lofty ambitions for Hy-Vee’s foodservice.
Last August, Hy-Vee opened its first full-service restaurant at a new store in Urbandale, Iowa, with a gourmet burger line, lengthy wine list and local craft beers.
A month ago, at a companywide meeting, Edeker announced “a chainwide initiative to essentially transform our foodservice.”
“Right now the plan is over three years to develop 75 of our stores into full-service restaurants called the Market Grille. And then the remaining stores will be called Market Cafes,” which will offer limited service but a similar menu, Edeker said.
Though Edeker wasn’t able to give many details, the next year will also see big developments in online grocery shopping — a segment he noted has been a hot topic given the recent expansion of AmazonFresh.
“We’ve had home shopping for a number of years. We really have plans to take that to an entirely new level that we’re working through.”
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