The Rotary Club of Hudson was treated to behind-the-scenes looks at the increasingly competitive food industry from a wholesale marketing manager, a catering chef and a family owner of major food providers in the region.
Julia Petrescu, Marketing Manager, Costco Wholesale in Boston Heights, discussed their Kirkland signature brand explaining that in order to control the quality of items such as olive oil, coffee, and eggs, Costco uses a certification system that traces products from their origins. This solves the problem of misleading labeling found on many products in the marketplace. For example, Costco has its own olive groves in Tuscany and its own chicken farm in Wisconsin. Julia also emphasized Costco’s dedication to hiring the quality of staff that will relate well to its customers. Hiring managers regularly ask themselves, “would you want to marry this candidate?”.
Derek Finnell, Chef of Nosh Eatery in Hudson, revealed that eighty percent of their sales come from catering. The Hudson restaurant focuses on specific themes and offers limited selections that have proven popular with regular customers.
The secret to Nosh’s success has been their business relationships with produce/meat suppliers. They do buy whole animals directly from local farms where prices are high but “you get the quality that you pay for”. Commenting on the food industry, Derrick indicated that profits are very slim, management typically works 80 to 90 hours a week and 60% of chefs leave the industry by age 30. Currently there is only one qualified chef available for ten job openings.
Jeff Heinen, Co-President of Heinen’s Fine Foods, is the third generation Heinen, along with his twin brother Tom, to run the business with 19 stores in Ohio and Illinois. Customer service is Heinen’s top priority realizing that “most people don’t like to grocery shop”. Heavily invested in its employees (associates) who represent two thirds of its total costs, Heinen’s provides extensive training to insure associate happiness which, in turn, leads to customer satisfaction. Food sourcing with growers, ranchers and fishermen is another strength of Heinen’s. They use 50 local farms and work hard to maintain supportive relationships with all suppliers. Jeff feels that Heinen’s needs to remove the “friction of shopping” by offering food the way customers want to use it and ultimately by providing internet shopping coupled with home/office delivery. That will further reduce already slim margins.