A regional grocery chain that most Americans have never visited was just named the best in the US.
Wegmans ranks as Americans’ favorite grocery chain, according to Market Force Information’s annual survey of the industry, which will be officially released on Wednesday.
This is the first time in four years that Trader Joe’s missed out on the No. 1 spot in Market Force’s survey. The discount chain slipped 5% in customer satisfaction since its win in 2015.
While last year Wegmans didn’t even earn enough votes to make the list, this year the 88-location grocery chain doubled its support. With a score of 76% satisfaction, Wegmans beat out No. 2 Publix and No. 3 Trader Joe’s.
Wegmans was founded in 1916, and it is based in Rochester, New York.
The chain was founded by brothers Walter and John Wegman and is still family-owned, with Danny Wegman serving as CEO and his daughter, Colleen Wegman, serving as president.
- Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press
Wegmans stores are larger than the average grocery store, emphasizing variety and fresh products. The company reports that locations stock50,000 to 70,000 products – in the largest stores – compared to the slightly more than 40,000products that Food Marketing Institute reports the average supermarkets stock.
Because they carry more products, Wegmans is usually about 75,000 to 140,000 square feet, with the company emphasizing the stores’ “spacious aisles” – in contrast to Trader Joe’s often cramped ones.
The stores also have to be large enough to fit various extras that are foreign to many supermarkets.
- @Wegmans on Twitter
Many locations have cafes, pizzerias, sushi bars, and buffets, plus seating areas for 100 to 300 people where customers can eat their food.
The chain is also known for its extensive beer market, with alarge selection of craft brews.Some locations even have walk-in beer lockers.
Many customers love Wegmans because of the dedicated customer service.
“Its focus on employee training to ensure customers have the best experience has been a winning strategy that creates superfans eager for a new location to open near their home,” reports Market Force.
In return for employees’ dedication, Wegmans serves as a superior employer in the grocery industry. The company offers healthcare coverage for workers as well as college scholarships, paying around $4.5 million in tuition assistance to employees each year.
- @Wegmans on Twitter
All of these factors combine to create an army of Wegmans fans, responsible for the grocery chain’s top ranking. In 2015,the company reported that 7,300 customerscontacted Wegmans to report how much they enjoyed their shopping experience or the way employees treated them.
Wegmans is currently focused on expanding, with planned openings in states including MarylandandVirginialater this year. According to Wegmans,more than 4,000 people contacted the company asking for a store in their community in 2015.
The company’s efforts are paying off.
Wegmans reported annual sales of $7.9 billion in 2015. That’s not as much as Trader Joe’s, where annual sales reached an estimated $11.3 billion,according to Packaged Facts. But it’s pretty impressive when comparing the number of locations: Trader Joe’s has more than 400 stores, while Wegmans has just 88.
Of course, the Market Force survey is just one measure of success. Wegmans’ appeal is, to some degree, based on its premium exclusivity. But Trader Joe’s has many loyal customers of its own because of its ability to keep prices extremely low by focusing on its in-house brand instead of offering Wegmans’ wider variety.