PSK Supermarkets Invests in Technology to Provide a Better Shopping Experience
Family-owned and operated PSK Supermarkets is launching new health and wellness initiatives.
Noah Katz has a large family. It’s made up of more than 1,000 people from all walks of life, diversified ethnicities and distinct cultures. But they all share one thing in common – they work for PSK Supermarkets.
A family-owned and operated grocery store chain with 13 Foodtown, Super Foodtown, Freshtown and Pathmark stores throughout the New York metropolitan region, PSK Supermarkets doesn’t consider itself a business. It’s a family.
“We care very deeply about the people that work for us,” says Katz, who is co-president of the grocery chain with his brother Daniel Katz. “We are so grateful to the associates that work in our stores. Their hard work is the reason for the success of the company. Everything we do can be attributed to them. They are our extended family.”
Aside from offering a competitive salary and benefits package and a lucrative bonus program, the Katz brothers have gone the extra mile when it comes to caring about the health and wellness of their extended family.
This summer, the company launched FRESH Medicine, an optional six-month health and wellness program for PSK Supermarkets’ employees that is 75 percent subsidized by the company.
FRESH Medicine is an integrative health practice that combines conventional medicine such as medications, diagnostic testing, tools and technologies with evidence-based complementary therapies, clinical nutrition, functional medicine, positive psychology and health coaching.
Designed to help people make healthier choices, the program addresses five pillars of health: food, relaxation, exercise, sleep and happiness (FRESH).
“There’s a huge gap in the area of health and wellness in our country,” Katz says. “We rely on doctors for information about health and wellness but due to the nature of our medical system, we’re not getting it. The reason is that the average person sees a doctor for only 10 minutes per year. This program is designed to give all that information to our associates to fill in that gap and help them lead healthier lives.”
An Innovative Approach
The Katz brothers make health a high priority in their lives and have previously participated in a health and wellness program.
“My brother and I are very health conscious people,” Katz admits. “We’re always learning how to improve and better our health and wellbeing and we have seen a lot of success for ourselves. Personally, I lost 30 pounds in about three months.”
As a result of their success, the brothers wanted to share their passion for health and wellbeing with their PSK Supermarkets family.
“We said to each other, ‘we have to do something for our associates,’” Katz says. “My brother started interviewing doctors and then he found Dr. Graham and the FRESH Medicine program.”
Dr. Robert Graham is a Harvard-trained internal and integrative medicine doctor with a master’s degree in public health and well-versed in mind-body medicine, positive psychology, “lifestyle” medicine and traditional Chinese medicine, which makes him a capable advocate for expanding the inclusivity of wellness.
Graham’s FRESH Medicine program is designed for people seeking a preventative and holistic approach to health and wellness.
According to Graham’s website, www.freshmednyc.com, the program brings a team of renowned certified and licensed healthcare professionals to the workplace to design and implement a wide range of wellness and disease prevention programs for a company’s staff.
They work in partnership with a company to identify innovative approaches to addressing the health and wellness issues for its employees. They define a company’s goals and tailor their program to reflect its unique culture.
“It aligned perfectly with what we wanted,” Katz says, adding that roughly 300 out of his 1,000 PSK family members already signed up for the program. “We’re all going through it together and more are signing up all the time. We will be offering it every six months.”
Katz credits his niece, Abby Katz, who has been accepted into medical school, for implementing the program within PSK Supermarkets. “Abby spearheaded the entire program on behalf of the company,” he adds. “She worked alongside with Dr. Graham.”
The optional program involves dedicating roughly one hour per week to the six-month program. Focused on the program’s five pillars – food, relaxation, exercise, sleep and happiness – employees work on improving their lifestyles. They are encouraged to keep track of their progress in a Fresh Success journal and have access to a variety of online tools.
“The top thing that I would hope they get out of the program is information that they didn’t have before, information that about how to live healthier lives,” Katz says.
Caring For Customers
Aside from employees, PSK Supermarkets is dedicated to its customers and the communities it serves in Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, Long Island, the Bronx, Putnam, Dutchess County and Delaware County.
A leader in club card loyalty marketing, PSK Supermarkets has one of the most sophisticated points and loyalty programs in the industry.
“Most companies claim to have a loyalty program,” Katz says. “But we actually have one.”
The program deploys state-of-the-art technology to track all purchases by customers in real time. Shoppers then receive meaningful offers on a regular basis based on items that they purchased. They can receive offers at the checkout lane, by email, direct mail and in store. Plus, they earn points on purchases.
“They can redeem their points to get free groceries, gift cards or gas for their car,” Katz adds. “We have shoppers that have never paid for milk or eggs because that’s how they choose to use their points.”
One interesting element of the PSK Supermarkets loyalty program is the use of technology to welcome its repeat customers. The front end manager of each store carries an Android device that receives a text – including the customer’s name – alerting them when one of their “top spending shoppers” is coming through the checkout line.
The manager is then supposed to walk over to that customer, greet them and ask if they were satisfied with their shopping experience.
”This is a small example of something unique that we have not seen any other supermarkets do,” Katz says. “We came up with this about 15 years ago. But back then we used beepers.”
Customer relationship management is a part of the company’s fabric of daily operation. Each store has a customer relationship manager who is responsible for the loyalty program and communicating with customers, as well as the
community at large.
“This person is proactively involved in community outreach, making sure that we are there for the community and its events,” Katz adds. “We participate in many fundraisers, both large and small.”
To make sure that it responds to charitable organizations in a timely manner, PSK Supermarkets gives its store managers the authority to make a decision at store level.
It’s not uncommon for representatives from local organizations to walk into a store and ask for help with supporting a charitable event.
But if a store manager has to get it approved at higher levels, it can take time. “And by the time they approve it, it’s three weeks after the event,” Katz says. “We want to make sure things like that never happen. The community needs to know that they can count on us.”
Realizing that online shopping is a growing trend, PSK Supermarkets has made available to its customers. Its customers can order their groceries online and then pick them up at one of PSK’s stores or have them delivered.
“We launched an initiative about 5 years ago where we partnered with Freshop.com,” Katz says. “It handles our entire online experience. Most supermarkets have what I call an informational website where you can go online and see all the information about their company, but we converted our website to a shopping website.”
Another technological initiative that PSK Supermarkets implemented about a year ago is an Aisle iQ platform. Among its many uses, it tells management and staff what people are buying most, in order to keep the items in stock.
“We’re always testing technology that can help improve our business and new programs to help our customers have a better shopping experience,” Katz says.
Since PSK Supermarkets has a unique process of running its business, it operates its own university, which will be moving online this year.
Currently, PSK University is located at the company’s headquarters in Mount Vernon, N.Y. It is a central place where associates can share ideas and practices on how to perform their jobs to the best of their ability.
Structured courses with well documented material have enabled PSK staff to raise the bar as they stock the stores and take care of their customers. They include guidelines for world-class operations, customer relationship management, customer service, payroll Control and time management.
“Right now, we are right now in the process of uploading everything onto an electronic platform,” Katz says. “We hope to have it implemented late this year.”
A Family Affair
PSK Supermarkets has been a Katz family business since 1956. It started when Noah and Daniel’s grandfather, Paul, opened a fruit stand in the Bronx, N.Y. His wife Essie ran the cash register. When his son, Sydney, was not at school, he would deliver customer orders on his bicycle.
In 1956, Paul saved enough money to purchase his first small supermarket in the Bronx on 204th Street, a location that is still with the company today.
After graduating college in 1965, Sydney joined the business and the father and son team was formed. Together, they built the company up to seven grocery stores during the 1970s and 1980s in the Bronx and Queens.
Daniel and Noah worked in the family stores from a young age and later joined the company full-time after graduating college in the late 1980s.
Today, PSK Supermarkets has grown into a chain of 13 stores. It focuses on buying and taking over under-performing stores from supermarket chains, assembling a top rate team, and then turning them into winning world-class supermarkets for the communities they serve.
In addition, PSK is one of the largest members of the Allegiance Retail Services (ARS) buying cooperative, which consists of more than 115 stores. The Co-Op is a partnership of more than 25 independent supermarket retailers from the New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
“Being a part of the Co-Op allows us to buy goods at the same costs as every major grocery chain,” Katz says. “The buying power of 115 stores is much greater and allows us to stay competitive.”
Sydney, Daniel, Noah and their 1,000 PSK family members have been able to grow the company dramatically over the past 30 years.
“We love the grocery business,” Katz says. “Our ultimate goal is to offer you a great, friendly, clean, warm place to shop. We have all the advantages of a big chain with competitive prices plus the benefits of being a family run business. We are very thankful of all our associates who work so hard and do a great job stocking our stores and taking care of our customers. We could never do it without them.”