What We Can Learn From: Wegmans

Posted By Ali Haegele on May 14, 2015

It seems like everyone is a foodie these days. Shopping at Acme and limiting your cheese knowledge to yellow or white used to be enough, but no more. The call of camembert and ricotta salata and baby lettuces and artisan charcuterie is too strong to ignore. And for suburbanites and city dwellers alike, that call can be traced to this region: Wegmans.

Some may wonder, what's so special about a supermarket? Thinking of Wegmans as a supermarket is a common mistake—Wegmans is food Disneyland (just look at the parking lot). It's a destination. It's a completely immersive branded experience filled with colorful sights, tempting smells and tasty samples. I approach shopping at Wegmans like I approach my work: I’m organized. I take it seriously. And I’m always excited to see what I end up making.

Being prepared doesn’t mean you can’t be inspired.
I like to plan a few meals for the week and write my Wegmans list in order by department. I know it’s anal, but I shop on Sunday mornings. Without a plan of attack I’d be there all day fighting the crowd of “tourists”. So I make my list, go in with a plan…but I’m also a little flexible. They could have fresh figs. Now I need blue cheese. And Rosé. Suddenly my afternoon includes happy hour on the deck. I think the same goes for the creative process. Organization and planning sets us up for success, but it’s the spontaneous sparks that make our work extra tasty.

Options are great, especially when they’re all good options.
Wegmans Menu magazine is filled with great recipes using their store-brand products, meats and produce. Like any good foodie magazine, it presents mouthwatering photos of appetizers, weeknight meals, veggie sides and more. But here’s the genius part: they give you three options to accomplish the dish. First, they give you the option and recipe to make it from scratch. Then there’s an option for buying and combining elements that are pre-cut or pre-measured for you. Finally, there’s the “take it” option—you simply buy the dish from their prepared or hot foods area. This is so smart. It makes being a foodie accessible to people with different skill levels and lifestyles. By offering three smart solutions to the customer, everyone has a way to solve the problem effectively.

Do the hard work, then present the hell out of it.
Every grocery store tracks inventory, orders product and keeps the shelves stocked. And that’s probably 95% of the work. The difference at Wegmans is the last 5%. They don't just track, order and stock tomatoes. They build a towering display of plump, ripe heirlooms, flanked by fresh buffalo mozzarella and bushels of fragrant basil. They organize olives in the mile-long Mediterranean bar by origin, color and category (pitted or whole) in a tempting, briny gradient. They present whole fish in icy beds staked with wooden signs to tell you where and when they were last swimming. They did the work to get that wild-caught grouper from the Florida Keys to Cherry Hill, and they’re proud of it. These details tell me that Wegmans believes in what they're selling. And I’m totally buying it.

Ali Haegele is the Creative Services Manager at Karma Agency and an excellent cook.