Ready to Serve
By Geoff Dueck Thiessen
Can you tell the difference between a male and a female lobster? I had no clue until I went to meet and talk to our newest members in Local 306 employed at three new Save-On-Foods grocery stores in Winnipeg.
Save-On-Foods is the main grocery banner of the Overwaitea Food Group, which got its start in 1915 in New Westminster, BC. The western retail grocery giant recently committed to a future in Manitoba, bringing lots of opportunity for approximately 1,000 Local 306 members.
Save-On-Foods’ plan was ambitious—open three grocery stores on the same day in a completely new market. The three new stores include a flagship international store at Save-On-Foods’ Northgate Shopping Centre location—one of the most unique supermarkets in North America—and two more conventional stores at its St. James Avenue and Bridgwater Forest neighbourhood locations.
The grand opening gala event at Northgate received a boost from Randy Bachman and his band, who kicked it off with a concert. The roughly 500 Local 306 members employed at Northgate have unique opportunities because of the enormous ethnic foods selection in the store—including a dim sum bar.
Winnipeggers have been eating it up. The city was more than ready for Save-On-Foods’ entry into the market. That readiness includes an eager group of Local 306 members who have already impressed management with their positive outlook and keenness to serve customers.
For CLAC and Local 306, Save-On-Foods’ entry into Manitoba is an opportunity to build on the strong record established by Local 301, which has represented Save-On-Foods’ employees for the past 25 years in Alberta. That record is about respect and fairness while emphasizing high employee engagement.
Save-On-Foods’ success revolves around its commitment to people—both its customers and its team members. When I visited the three stores, I knew that Save-On-Foods’ entry into Manitoba was sure to be a smash success because of the friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable staff.
I’m amazed by the quality of the work and dedication of these new Local 306 members. It makes serving them as their union representative a true pleasure. I asked some of them to share their thoughts about what they do, what it’s like working for Save-On-Foods—and how to tell the difference between a male and female lobster.
“It’s fun yet challenging working here. I get lots of good questions from customers. They’re very shocked to hear we make things in the store. I love the reactions of the kids.”
“I make sushi in a country that doesn’t know anything about sushi! I’m very good at what I do, and I love to see the smile on customers’ faces when they buy what I’ve made. It’s really a wonderful feeling.
“I find that Save-On-Foods is a wonderful place to work. We have a team that is really caring, and we will go the extra mile for our customers and each other. We’re one happy family! Thank you, Save-On!”
Starbucks Coffee Shop
“I’m a Starbucks coffee shop clerk. My role is to deliver an exceptional customer experience by kindly greeting customers, swiftly completing orders, and keeping a clean and safe workplace. A typical day in the store is warm and welcoming. Employees know how important customer experience management is to the company, so there are many smiles and positive attitudes throughout the store, which makes customers happy to be there.
“The best part of my job is serving customers their hot or cold cups of joy and watching their faces light up with satisfaction. Being surrounded by such a tight-knit and warm family of employees is by far what I like best about working for Save-On-Foods.”
“I am a store clerk in the seafood department, and this is my first time working in the grocery industry. Working at Save-On-Foods is phenomenal. The job is easy; the schedule is flexible; and the trainers, supervisors, and team members are very nice, friendly, and supportive.
“For me, the best part of my job is talking to the customers. I get to meet a lot of people in different walks of life. I have a little conversation with them and tell them what we have to offer in our seafood section. I like to explain things to customers, like how to tell which lobsters are male and which ones are female. Male lobsters flex outward when you pick them up, and females curl up.”
“My current position is deli production. I take care of all the platters and orders we receive in the deli. I have worked in the grocery industry before with a combined two years of experience, also in the deli.
“A typical day at the store for me includes counting and organizing the deli production sheet. Once that’s done, I complete whatever else needs to be done, whether that’s making platters for special orders or making our daily available items.
“I would have to say that what I like the most about Save-On-Foods is that the company actually cares about their employees. They trust us enough where our managers aren’t constantly on us about what needs to be done. They know what we are capable of and let us do our work without interrupting us.
“The best part of my job is that I get to do what I love—working with food—and taking care of customers the way I would like to be treated as a customer. I’m very thankful for the opportunity to be a part of such a great company, a company that really does put its customers first.”
Starbucks Coffee Shop
“I’m a barista at the Save-On Foods’ Starbucks. I make different types of drinks, usually easy ones, but there are times where a customer wants a specific drink where they know what it should taste like. I’m quite scared when making drinks that are complicated since I’m new and still learning. I wouldn’t want a customer to say to me that their drink is wrong or doesn’t taste right when I made it to the best of my ability.
“There’s a lot to know, making so many drinks. It helps once you know the building blocks for the basic drinks. And when we have a special seasonal drink, you learn it really well.
“The best part about my job is the people I work with. It’s always fun to work and hang out with them on the job. It makes me want to come back. They make it a fun experience working here, which motivates me to work”
“My position is self-appointed deli superstar! Others have appointed me cheese queen, because I mostly handle cheese—60 feet of cheese. I’m also a floater so I help wherever needed. Our store is crazy fast-paced. It’s a busy, happy, fun place—with the odd grumble—but our deli is well-managed and our family here is strong.
“I was a stay-at-home mom but when you start talking like your toddlers, you know it’s time for work! I worked for a year in another deli before I started working for Save-On. The best part about working here is that I go to work each shift to do my best and learn all I can, with the knowledge that there is serious future potential. The opportunities are endless!
“The scariest thing I’ve experienced, hands down, is the amount of cheese I’ve consumed! Seriously, becoming an experienced cheese person you must try what you’re selling. I have gone from someone who only ate mozzarella on pizza, marble cheddar, and Parmesan from a can to someone who can play name that cheese and win. And yes, that taste experience includes all the blue cheeses!
“It’s been a great, awesome time getting to know Save-On-Foods and my fellow team members. I feel blessed to be given such an opportunity with such a great company. Even with the growing pains that come with a new store, we’re providing an amazing customer experience.”
Starbucks Coffee Shop
“I’m a shift supervisor in the coffee shop and have not worked at a grocery store before. As Starbucks workers, we do a variety of things, which include making drinks, serving pastries, working the till, and cleaning—constantly cleaning. What I definitely like most is the management and how down to earth and relatable they are.
“Most weekdays are quite slow, which is nice compared to the weekend, so it gives us more time to tidy up the place. It also gives us more time to interact with each other and become more than just co-workers.
“The best part about working here is getting to know my fellow workers and building a bond with everyone in the store. I work in the Starbucks but I’m still a Save-On-Foods employee, so I have a different perspective.
“There was this one time where one of our Starbucks staff was off for the day, but he decided to come in to say hi and get a drink. This was during the soft opening of the store, so everything was quite new and we were all still getting used to things. He ordered a black tea lemonade and I made the drink for him. He came back about a minute later and said, ‘Sorry to be THAT person, but this isn’t tea. I think it’s coffee.’
“In that moment, I realized I used the cold brew coffee in the fridge instead of the black tea. I tried the drink and it was one of the grossest things I’ve ever had—an ice coffee lemonade!”