Driving North on Route 611 it isn’t hard to spot. Off the road to the right there is a beautiful clock tower. As you turn into the shopping center, the clock tower becomes larger and you notice the tower is attached to a Wegman’s shopping center. Wegman’s is a huge grocery store that originated in Rochester that expanded West towards Buffalo then South into Pennsylvania. My first visit to one of these vast grocery stores was on a volleyball trip with my club to Buffalo. I was blown away not only was it a grocery store but it also had a café and a restaurant inside. It was a very overwhelming experience. Where I live we do not have grocery stores like Wegman’s. The Company Wegman’s is stepping out of the box, trying to make themselves even more convenient for the everyday person/family and are becoming more involved in the community.
I had the opportunity to talk to the manager of the restaurant department, Liz Chrobocinski. I met Liz through a mutual friend and I shop often at the Wegman’s she works at because my uncle lives just across the street. I have met Liz and her family several times before at events. I asked her one-day if she would be willing to answer a couple questions about her work and she gladly said yes. Liz is in charge of several things, the Market Café (seating area), as well as the catering, pizza, sub and coffee departments. When I met up with Liz she escorted me upstairs to the an open eating area, looking over the restaurant side of the store where their would be less noise and distractions. To get to know Liz a little better and have her open up to me I asked her about her family. She told me she had a son who was my age, out a college studying Business Management and had two stepdaughters and a grandchild who she loved to spoil. She told me how he husband and her babysit their grandchild during the week. I don’t know how she was able to do it but then she mentioned that her husband is on disability and cannot work due to a back injury so he loves watching over his granddaughter.
One of the first things I ask was as the manager, what did she do on a daily basis? “Well, my routine consists of checking payroll daily, checking emails from corporate offices regarding my department, as well as making sure each department has the tools and resources to make them all successful. I also make sure all my folks (her 35 staff members) are being trained and developed to the best of their ability.” I could see that Liz took her job very seriously and talked to me in a very professional manner. Her tone of voice was very official sounding using a very string vocabulary.
Then I noticed the outfit Liz was wearing, “Liz the outfit you are wearing now, is that a typical uniform or is it worn just for your department?” “All of us wear the same uniform…polo shirts and khakis or black pants no jeans. I make sure the kids are presentable in their uniforms and have not just picked it out of the dirty clothes pile, no wrinkled or dirty clothes. We service the public and need to look clean.” She sounded like a mother making sure her child doesn’t wear dirty clothes. However Liz forgot to mention the chef like hat she was wearing, which I noticed all the restaurant staff wore. I could tell Liz truly cared about how her staff reflected their workplace.
I asked her if the store did anything to reach out to the community, since she mentioned how the workers care about how the public portrays them. “We do actually. On Friday nights we have acoustic music. Around the holidays we have Breakfast with the Easter Bunny and Santa, which I am in charge of all of it. I also do two Cooking with Kids classes each month and facilitate and run those.” I was surprised by all the things Liz mentioned that her department does to involve the community. Normally a supermarket is all about food but Wegman’s approach to invite customers in is different and it works.
Their community involvement made me even more curious about the food they serve not only at these special events but daily. So I asked her what each department served. “In the pizza department, we sell pizza, calzones, wings and fritters…we will soon be offering gluten free hot pizza.” After hearing about the gluten free I asked if they make it from scratch “Yes, we make all of the calzones and pizza sold including the dough daily. Subs and wraps of all kind are sold in the Sub department. We bake our rolls and slice the lunchmeat for them. We make the tuna, chicken and egg salads for this department as well. The coffee shop serves cappuccinos, lattes, smoothies and fresh brewed regular and decaf coffee. They also make egg sandwiches all day to order.” Then one of Liz’s staff members came over and said something about the soda machine was broken again, so Liz excused herself for the moment. I didn’t mind the break it gave me a chance to right down some notes and also to right more questions down while they were spinning around in my head.
When Liz returned she was slightly frazzled. Liz started talking about the soda machine incident, or should I say rambled about it because I could barely understand a word she was saying so I just smiled and nod as she talked. Once she was done talking, I changed the topic and asked her about the catering department. “The catering department takes the orders fro all prepared department, cheese, bakery, deli, seafood and prepared foods where they have a huge variety of selection. You can view the catering catalog by going onto wegamans.com” I wrote down the website and circled it several times to remember to look at the site after the interview. We continued to talk about the catering and the popular items. “The Catering department caters ALL (and Liz emphasized all) kinds of parties, we provide just the food, and we do not come and set up at your event or serve. We help you plan…lots of fun. My job was a lot easier when I just planned peoples parties now as you can see, I am responsible for many other areas and people beside myself.” By the end of the interview Liz was showing less of her professional side and more of a cheerful side of a woman who enjoys her job.
As we continued to chat I remembered how Liz mention Easter and Christmas. As Liz was finishing up a sentence I asked whether or not they did any thing special for the holidays or just for dinner. Liz grinned at the question, “Of course, some of our popular items are our six, eight and ten dollar meals which includes an entrée with two sides (which are served daily). We also have a popular Fish Fry Friday and Prime Rib Saturday night. There is always something new we are featuring, around this time we make Passover and Easter dinners that are complete, all you need to do is heat and serve. Many people purchase the Ham dinner for Easter that costs $130 and serves 10-12 people. Our Passover Turkey and Brisket dinners are $180 and we have no problem selling them, crazy.” Liz talked nonstop about the catering department after all she did work there before her management position; she seemed to really enjoy it. I asked her when does she have off and she replied “the only real we are closed is Christmas Day.” Then she continued on about how as a manager she works most of the holidays and even helps out behind the counter if her staff is getting swamped with orders. Liz mentioned her favorite time of the year is the day after the holidays and the stress of work is lifted at least until the holiday approaches.
When she talked about the dinners it sounded very labor intensive and a very popular item. I was curious about what happened when they were cooking and if they ever run out of ingredients while cooking. “All the food is fresh and goes through stringent food safety standards. Some items are made in our central kitchen in Rochester and sent to us, lots of sauces and salads are. It is very rare that we run out of anything because we are also a supermarket and can get a lot of our ingredients from the aisles if we need to. Its kind of cool, we will give you the recipe to make it yourself or you can buy it already made in the prepared food area or sometimes in the frozen aisle, like lasagnas, wings and things.” I imagined what it would be like during the holiday season to sea a Wegman’s chef or employee running down the aisle to grab some ingredients, it was a very funny image.
Liz and I chatted for a bit but nothing of major importance. I thanked her for making time for me while she was at work. She told me it was no trouble at all and if I wanted to know anything else to let her know and she gave me her business card with her personal email written on the back. Liz walked with me down the stairs through the restaurant area and excused herself once again so she could return to work, for the Easter season was upon them and they have much work to be done. Liz truly was a woman who was light-hearted, easy to talk to and just a great person to be around. Her staff should know they have a great boss even thought some days she may get on their case.
If you want to know more information about Wegman’s restaurant department and catering you can visit the their website and go to Entertainment.