Forging a New Path
Erewhon Market leads the way in a changed industry landscape
Jason Bacaj | 4 min read
Businesses need to raise their standards to maintain trust with consumers and employees. But, right now, safety protocols are fluid. It’s a complex moment, but one that holds opportunity.
One of those opportunities is growth — beyond the number of locations or revenue. Now is a moment when you can grow your processes, grow your people.
We talked to one of our clients, Erewhon Market, to find out how the California-based food retailer is using this moment to be more proactive about standards while remaining agile.
Erewhon is an industry leader known for its exceptional service and knowledgeable staff, as well as its premium organic and biodynamic food selection. Read on to see what Courtney Russell, Director of Training and Development, and Jason Widener, Vice President of Store Development, have to say about how they’re using their Learning Management System to position Erewhon for growth.
Wisetail: It feels like we have to start with the pandemic: How has Erewhon adjusted operations and pivoted amid all this?
Courtney Russell, Director of Training and Development
A huge part of our business is the community aspect because people flock to Erewhon to hang out, get a smoothie or a coffee with a friend. That community vibe is a huge thing for us.
So instead of us just eliminating that in-person service, we’ve figured out ways to pack all of the things people used to love to come in for. We created an over-the-phone ordering system for individualized deli plates and smoothies and lattes, so all of that has gone curbside. We figured out how to pack on the spot.
All that has been great for that sense of community. We’re also a medicinal resource for many people, with our own naturopathic doctors and herbalists and a highly informed staff. Erewhon has the best in vitamins, supplements, tonics, and juices. Our community looks to us for expertise in immune system support, stress reduction, and overall good health, and we’re honored by that and take it seriously.
We were also one of the earliest stores to begin offering early hours (6-7am) for the elderly, immunocompromised, and pregnant customers to shop early. We’ve also begun stocking a great variety of masks that people can purchase in store.
Wisetail: How does your team hope to use training and development to strengthen and improve that employee-customer relationship?
One thing is how fast we’re growing — we’re opening a store in Silver Lake, which is a smaller city in Los Angeles, in the next couple months — and we want to make sure that the Erewhon culture and our standards are translated to every new person who comes on board even though we’re gonna be all hands on deck, going full speed with a brand new store.
The learning platform feels like a super solid safety net. Everybody will get the same messaging and be ready to go.
Jason Widener, Vice President of Store Development
All the store directors and the leadership are totally behind it. Obviously it takes a lot of time to train people, and we feel like this platform is a massive support tool.
Plus, it challenges the new person. A lot of new people might look at this and go, “Man, these guys are freaking crazy!” And I want them to know, yes, we are crazy, and it’s okay. You might not fit in and that’s okay, too. And I think them plugging into this platform every day for the first two months for 10-15 minutes a day really shows how serious we are. And it opens up conversation, you know. It’s great, I like it.
Wisetail: We love Erewhon’s holistic approach to employee training, has that approach led to any creative or unexpected uses for GRO?
Definitely, we’re getting new ideas every day. For example, one of our newer initiatives helps spotlight brands. So, certain brands that we partner with will request that they get extra attention. We train our employees on those brands, promote them in special features around the store, special features in our newsletters.
GRO is the perfect solve for how to train our employees on these brands. Without the platform, it’s difficult to ensure that every employee has been trained on these brands without a layer of accountability.
One problem the platform addresses is that when you’re head-down, focused in a department, you start playing in your own sandbox. I think this training platform will ultimately shed light on every department and how it all works together as one team. It’s important.
It’s important because if you’re a department manager and get someone new, you’re just like, “I gotta train this person, get them up to speed, I gotta do my schedule, do my orders, check inventories, do my reports,” a million things to do because we’re moving so fast, you get lost.
If that goes on for a while it’s like you know nothing about grocery. You know nothing about Tonic Bar. You know nothing about our true heart and soul, customer service. Departments with no borders, you know.
How Wisetail Can Help Food Retail
Essential work requires an essential solution. One that puts your people first, with leading edge communication and training features built for results, so you can do what you do, better. Learn how Wisetail’s LMS has cut days off onboarding schedules and lowered annualized turnover by 40%.
Ahead of the Curve
Our full conversation is available in our guide, Training Simplified. Download it today to learn all about the cutting-edge work Erewhon is doing.
GRO has not yet reached its final form. Courtney and Jason are always looking for new ways and angles to educate employees on the bigger picture of the food industry.
“It feels like we’re stepping into this ahead of the curve,” Courtney said. “Our training is so impactful and it’s so all-encompassing that I know I feel really passionate about setting a standard and an example for other businesses to follow.”
By Jason Bacaj
Jason is a content creator with Wisetail. Through research and interviews, he works to help L&D pros grow the breadth of their knowledge. He’s a recovering journalist fascinated with learning.