Progressive Grocer Independent

OCT 2014

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28 | Progressive Grocer Independent | October 2014 Butcher's Block By Bob Buonomano 2013 PGI Outstanding Independents Award winner Bob Buonomano has been cutting meat for 40 years, the past 28 as owner of Windham IGA, in Willimantic, Conn. His "Help Save the Butchers" program helps grocers optimize their meat departments. He can be reached at [email protected] Most independent stores have employees working for them with years of experience and knowledge that can be of real value to customers. T oday's consumers have unprecedented access to information, especially recipes through social media sites, and we all have customers walking in with lists of ingredients needed to make those new recipes. Before the advent of the internet, people often turned to a well-trusted source, such as their local butcher, for suggestions and advice on new meal ideas. Butchers are knowledgeable tradespeople, while "meat cutter" often refers to someone who is profcient at cutting meat, and doesn't have the same connotation as "butcher." For a time, I hired only meat cutters, and I was an- noyed if I saw one having a conversation with a cus- tomer that was more than simply taking the customer's order. I wanted the meat cutter to get back to work. Tis attitude came from my training that ingrained the fact that meat cutters were there only for that purpose, and if they had time to chat, I needed to cut labor hours. Now, as an independent grocer known for my store's meat department, I hire only butchers, whom I encour- age to converse with customers. During these chats, the butchers impart their knowledge and become educators of customers looking for meats to create new recipes. A well-chosen steak or roast can be the determining factor in whether a recipe succeeds. Most independent stores have employees working for them with years of experience and knowledge that can be of real value to customers. Encourage your employ- ees to share this knowledge with shoppers; keeping it a secret is of no beneft to customers or to you. For example, once, when I was straightening the meat case, I had a customer ask me if I knew anything about meat or if I just worked at the store. I realized that she had no expectations that I actually knew anything about meat, even though I was working at the meat counter. Customers no longer expect employees to have any knowledge of the department they happen to be working in. At that moment, I realized the value we can provide when we encourage employees to share their The Value of Sharing Encouraging employees to share their knowledge with cus- tomers will only improve your business. knowledge. I spent 15 minutes educating the shopper on the products that would work best for her needs, and I added that in my store, any of our butchers or clerks were capable of helping her. It's conversations like this that help to create loyal shoppers, and it's time well spent to prove that you're experts in the feld. Crafting a helpful image and taking the time to educate our customers are investments in our own busi- nesses. By encouraging our employees to share their knowledge with our customers, we'll instill in them a sense of pride and confdence that will stand out from the competition. Customers, employees and, yes, even owners will reap the benefts. PGI

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