How Zingerman’s Built a Corner Deli into a Food Empire

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How Zingerman's Built a Corner Deli into a Food Empire

Coming from the Midwest, Michigan’s Zingerman’s has always been one of my favorite delis. But how did it go from corner deli to $70 million grocery empire?

On this week’s Small Business Radio Show, Micheline “Micki” Maynard is a journalist, author and professor. She is a columnist for the Washington Post, where her essays on business and culture appear in Voices Across America. She was senior editor at NPR’s Here & Now and senior correspondent and Detroit bureau chief for The New York Times. She is the author of four books, including her new book, Satisfaction Guaranteed: How Zingerman’s Built a Corner Deli into a Global Food Community.

Micki talks about how Zingerman’s founding principles – good food, good service and good business – and how those principles guided the company as it expanded yet remained local. In a unique move, they practiced “Open Book Management — providing all employees with open access to company finances so that they can be maximally informed and involved in all aspects of company management”. Micki explains this principle in detail, discusses its benefits for companies of all sizes and explains how companies can implement this practice themselves.

Another component of Zingerman’s model is visioning, which is “a very specific practice of writing down goals and intentions that the company’s founders use to guide every decision they make for their company.” Micki explains what visioning is and how other companies can use this practice to improve their long- and short-term planning.

From the beginning, Zingerman’s practice of servant leadership was based on the belief that “leaders exist to serve the organization, which includes managers, employees and customers alike”. Micki explains what that looks like in practice at Zingerman’s and how other companies can exemplify this management style themselves.

Responding to the Pandemic – Like any company, the pandemic hit Zingerman’s hard. Micki talks about how Zingerman’s has adapted and transitioned to ensure its business remains profitable while ensuring the health and safety of its employees remains a top priority.

Listen to the entire interview on The Small Business Radio Show.

Image: Micheline Maynard