ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- The best company to work for in the entire country is a family-owned supermarket chain based here that puts its workers ahead of its customers, according to Fortune magazine.
Wegmans, the 67-store operation known for its innovative merchandising and customer service, captured the No. 1 spot in the magazine's annual list of the "100 Best Companies to Work For." The retailer is profiled in an issue of the magazine that is scheduled to hit newsstands today.
The other supermarket operators on the list were Stew Leonard's, the Norwalk, Conn.-based operator also known for its innovative merchandising, at No. 29 on the list; natural-foods specialist Whole Foods Market, Austin, Texas, No. 30; and employee-owned Publix Super Markets, Lakeland, Fla., No. 94. Wegmans, Whole Foods and Publix also are among 22 companies that have been on the list in each of the eight years it has been published, beginning in 1998. Wegmans ranked No. 9 on the list last year.
The Fortune article explains that Wegmans' worker-centric policies help it to achieve operating margins of 7.5% on annual sales of about $3.4 billion, despite labor costs that run an estimated 15% to 17% of sales, vs. 12% for the industry as a whole.
"They really invest in their people," Ann Harrington, senior reporter, Fortune told SN.
As an example, she cited Wegmans' sending of a cheese specialist on a 10-day tour of Europe to study cheeses.
The ranking is generated through surveys of employees asking how they feel about their workplace. In addition, Fortune conducts an analysis of worker benefits, policies and procedures, Harrington explained. Two-thirds of the score for each company is based on the survey of employees, while the rest of the score is calculated through the evaluation of benefits.
"This is the culmination of my whole life's work," said Robert Wegman, chairman, in a prepared statement. "No matter how much we invest in our people, we get much more in return."