Winning Friends and Influencing Your Client Grocer


by Joel Stark
Snowfox Marketing Director

Should you have a relationship with your client grocer team?

Though you’re an independent business owner, the store’s profit margin and our company reputation is still based on your performance. It’s hard to have a perfect sushi bar, though many of you come close. How the store manager (also called the director by some clients) interprets any area in which you’re not performing well may be filtered through how they feel about you as a person.

If English is your second language, I may be introducing a new, but important word here: perception. How someone perceives you doesn’t always reflect the truth, and it’s less important with our close friends and family, who know us well. It includes all the available information a stranger uses to evaluate you or a situation you’re involved in.

The question you should ask yourself in order to decide whether or not you should work on closer professional friendships with your client grocer team is: Besides you, who in the store will customers and grocery executives judge the harshest if your product, merchandising, or behavior aren’t up to par? Of course, it’s the store manager,

For example, if store sales are higher in the current month than in the same month one year before (known as same-store sales), your client grocery manager expects sushi sales to match that growth. If your sales don’t, his or her district supervisor won’t come to you, they’ll expect the store manager to solve the problem. So the manager is under a lot of pressure regardless of our kiosks being franchise operations.

Grocery managers also supervise quite a few younger, inexperienced employees. Those of us who’ve supervised them know you can count on youngsters to provide plenty of drama—sometimes it’s poor attendance; at other times conflict between one another. As my fellow military officers and I would joke with one another, you spend 90% of your time on 10% of the troops.

The store manager thankfully anticipates a strong professional relationship with you, our mature chef. He or she feels they can count on peace and cooperation between you and their other employees. If an employee with whom you have a disagreement is younger and less mature, you’ll have to decide how patient you can be. If you handle it correctly, the employee may learn from your cooperative example. (And 20-year-olds are learning every day whether they know it or not!)

Remember: If there’s ever a serious problem that is out of control or where you feel your side of the story has been misunderstood, a store manager with whom you already have a strong, trusting relationship, is the one person who can influence others to understand you.

If you live in a smaller town with people a different ethnicity from you, people are certain to be curious about you. As I tell our Academy students, most Americans will start off by assuming you’re a great person (even if they make awkward jokes or mistakenly think that talking louder will make their English more clear).

There’s also a certain star quality to being a sushi chef. You’re in the spotlight, so consider when deciding how friendly to be with grocery employees–from the top manager to even the youngest or lowest ranking person in the store–that between them all they have hundreds of friends and family members. You can bet a lot of those people will ask the grocery employees about our sushi operation and quality.

Your reputation is really in those employees’ hands. So you’ll have to decide if you want to be the gem of your store and not the troll under the bridge, the classic bad guy from an old American children’s story. If the heroes of that tale, three goats, were wearing grocery uniforms, the troll would definitely refuse to give them more than one sushi sample a day!

Do you have a strong relationship with your store teammates?

Do deli team members greet you by name each day? Are you comfortable
asking store managers for small supplies or assistance? Do you know the last name of every manager? If you answered ‘no’ to any of these questions, you’ll need a different approach to your role on the store team. If you’ve gotten off to a rough start, the great news is people can be quite forgiving (trust me). What matters most is how you treat people today!

How can you build or strengthen your store relationships?

Start by using people’s names, which author Dale Carnegie explains, is the sweetest sound to anyone. An easy way to bond with your teammates is to set yourself this goal: Ask a different person each week a personal question about their hobbies, family, or, even better, compliment them and ask them about a task in the store that they appear to be skilled at or that they take a unique approach to. If you need a quick refresher on avoiding the appearance (remember that word perception?) of sexual harassment, a good rule of thumb is avoid cursing, sexual jokes, and asking anyone about their romantic life!

You never know when you’ll need help from a client grocer employee. You make a small investment in that relationship every time you smile, pronounce someone’s name correctly, and ask another person about themselves. You and your business have nothing to lose by giving some attention to your relationships and so much to gain.