CFBA gets taste of Wegmans’ philosophy

Members of the Chadds Ford Business Association had chance to peak behind the curtain that is Wegmans Food Market during their March 3 lunch meeting.

The group met in the small party room at the store and learned a little bit more about the market from manager Todd Strassner Jr. and from MJ Jones, who heads up the store’s catering and customer service.

Strassner, who’s been with Wegmans for 18 years — part of a family tradition — said one of his jobs is educating customers how to use the store, getting them to understand “how to shop at Wegmans.”

Wegmans' store manager Todd Strassner Jr. addresses members of the Chadds Ford Business Association during their March lunch meeting. He said the reception from customers since the store opened has been remarkable.

Wegmans' store manager Todd Strassner Jr. addresses members of the Chadds Ford Business Association during their March lunch meeting. He said the reception from customers since the store opened has been remarkable.

“The big thing is our philosophy, to stay two steps ahead of our customers,” he said. “Sometimes we’re doing stuff out there with food, with health or with creating easy meals. You as a customer might not be used to that or understanding what we’re doing with meals...When customers say they want to understand what Wegmans is offering, I can walk with customers and help them understand what we’re doing, explain the programs we’re running in moving the industry forward.”

It’s also his job to make it the best place to work for his employees. As he succeeds at that, he said, “They make it the best place to shop.”

Strassner said the 40,000 customers the store serves per week since it opened in November is indicative of the great reception the community has given the market and how well the employees are working with those customers.

“The reception we’ve received has been outstanding. I’ve been in a lot of communities with Wegmans…but this community has been remarkable. I received more customer compliments. And it’s not just about Wegmans; it’s about the people working here. This area, the folks in it, are really a group of positive people who are connected to what we’re doing,” Strassner said. “Our volume is exceeding what we hoped for.”

Wegmans as a company was just ranked number four in Fortune Magazine’s top 100 companies. It’s now ranked in the top 100 for 19 consecutive years.

While half the store is a standard supermarket with aisles of cereals, snacks, sauces, produce, dairy and other sundry items, the other half of the store contains a fully licensed restaurant with bar and a large area of prepared food bars — pizza, soups, sandwiches and more — and areas of precooked meals for individuals and families.

The responsibility for the prepared food area, along with the catering service, falls on the plate of Jones, a five-year Wegmans employee.

Jones said the department, in addition to the prepared meals sold, provides fully catered meals for groups of 10 or more. There is no delivery, however. Customers have to come into the store to pick up and carry out their catered order.

“That’s because of the area. We couldn’t guarantee your order for noon because of traffic,” she said. “We don’t want anyone upset because they didn’t get their lunch in time.”

And all the food is made that day.

“We have orders that come in every morning. We do freshness. Nothing is processed out; nothing’s made the night before,” she said.

According to Jones, institutions such as Maris Grove use the catering service, but other customers include people who haven’t cooked in a while and want to reacquaint themselves with working in the kitchen. None of the food goes out hot except for pizza and wings.

Jones is proud of her department and of the safety factors the store uses for packing the prepared meals.

“All of the food goes out in reheat-able, oven-ready and microwave-ready containers. They worked three years to perfect this container so there’s no carcinogens, nothing that can change the taste of the food,” she said.

The Concord store was the only one of the stores to open with the catering service but, it was so successful, Jones said, that all the new stores will open with the service available.

Strassner said Pennsylvania shoppers have spurred the company to open two more store in the state. A Lancaster store is planned for the latter part of 2019 and a store in Marple is scheduled for 2019.

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About Rich Schwartzman

Rich Schwartzman has been reporting on events in the greater Chadds Ford area since September 2001 when he became the founding editor of The Chadds Ford Post. In April 2009 he became managing editor of ChaddsFordLive. He is also an award-winning photographer.

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