What Do Grocery Managers Do? (duties, responsibilities & pay)


Grocery managers run the center of a grocery store in what is typically the largest department in a store. I was a grocery manager for 7 years, but before I got hired, I used to wonder what do grocery managers do?

Here’s what I learned:

Grocery managers are in charge of the operations in the grocery department of a store & should not be confused with a Grocery Store Manager which runs the whole store. A grocery manager will train & lead employees, order & stock products, manage inventory, check for expiration dates, and provide customer service.

But that just scratches the surface of this busy and complicated job. So let’s keep going.

There are numerous duties that a grocery manager has to take on, and without a good grocery manager, most stores would struggle to stay in business.

So in this article, we’re exploring what that role is, what they do, and what skills they need. But we’ll also look at how this job is different from that of a Grocery Store Manager (sometimes called a General Manager). And we’ll look at how the job differs from other department managers too.

Let’s get going!

In a recent article, I break down my best tips for working in a grocery store (something I did for over 20 years, eventually earning a 6-figure salary). Since I started with Whole Foods at $4.25/hr, I know ANYONE can do what I did.

So click that link to read it on my site.

What is a Grocery Manager?

A grocery manager is a person who runs the largest section of a grocery store.

This department can vary a little bit from company to company. But it is generally the center of the store and contains all the boxed, canned, and jarred food items. While it can vary a little bit, Grocery Departments also often include frozen foods and the dairy department.

Most grocery chains have a store manager, sometimes called a general manager. They may have 1-3 assistants depending on the size and sales volume of the store.

Then each major section of the store, usually referred to as departments would typically also have a department manager overseeing it.

Those departments would include:

  • Produce (fresh fruit & vegetables)
  • Meat
  • Seafood (sometimes combined with meat)
  • Bakery
  • Deli
  • Front End (cashiers and baggers)

Grocery managers, like all department managers, are responsible for the daily operation of their department.

That includes tasks such as:

  • Scheduling that department’s employees
  • Handling minor HR tasks for their team (but hiring & firing would often be done in conjunction with store leaders and/or HR)
  • Writing orders for products to ensure the shelves stay full of product (but not too much excess)

Before I became a store manager for Whole Foods, I was a Grocery Manager for Whole Foods for about 7 years in 3 locations.

The 3rd and final time I did that role was in San Francisco at the 1st store in that city at the intersection of California and Franklin. My team consisted of myself and an assistant and about 15-20 employees.

It was a busy role in the store with a lot of moving parts.

It was also a very physical job as we got large deliveries several times a week in the early mornings that needed to be stocked before we opened.

What Roles and Responsibilities Do Grocery Managers Have?

Grocery managers have plenty of roles and responsibilities. Without them, the store would be a mess! After all, the Grocery Department is often close to 60% of the sales floor and about 30% of the sales dollars.

With no Grocery Manager, you’d see expired food on the shelves, or empty shelves. There’d be no order or organization, and customers wouldn’t know where to look for their items.

Here’s a list of a few essential tasks that a grocery manager must keep up on:

1. Managing the inventory of a grocery department

Inventory is a huge responsibility.

Grocery managers have to keep track of what goes in and what goes out of their department. Unfortunately, they also have to take theft into account, which often leads to Loss Prevention services. Inventory needs to increase or decrease based on the amount sold compared to the company’s expectations for each item.

After all, when you order more product than you really need, it clogs up the backroom where the excess product is stored. It also is highly inefficient to go from the truck to the aisle, then to the backroom and then back to the aisle later. It also ties up the company’s purchasing dollars.

So a good grocery manager only orders just enough product to keep the shelves full until the next delivery.

2. Customer service

Customers are the lifeblood of a grocery store. AND, there are a million options when it comes to deciding where to buy your groceries from.

So what keeps customers loyal often comes down to their experience in the store and the customer service they get.

Not only do Grocery Managers have to be well-informed about the items in their department, but their employees need to be educated as well.

3. Training employees

It may take weeks, sometimes even months, to understand the whole process of a complicated grocery department.

This timespan often depends on the size of the store and the season. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and other big times of the year are hectic for grocery managers. That season also has the busiest days of the whole year.

Employees will be trained at a quicker rate during the holiday season; it’s sink or swim time!

Merchandising refers to the presentation and appearance of the products and displays in a store. Grocery managers and their employees must ensure that products are pulled to the front of the shelves and facing towards customers. This is known as facing or fronting products.

Stores like Whole Foods, which pride themselves on the appearance of the store, do this throughout the day. By comparison, large so-called “conventional stores” like a Safeway or Kroger may not do this at all other than when the shelves are first stocked overnight or in the early morning.

Employees also have to be trained not just on the physical tasks but also on the store layout, product information, and even basic cooking tips. In the grocery department, we get asked a lot of questions!

But there’s a lot more to know about merchandising and what makes it great or terrible.

Luckily I take all the mystery out of it in a recent article. I not only cover how to build displays, but I throw in some industry tricks for making big displays when you only have a small amount of product.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

What Skills Does a Grocery Manager Need?

Whether you’re coming in from another department or you’re curious about how you can work your way up, you’ll need a specific set of skills to be a grocery manager.

This position requires you to be always alert and ready to take on any concerns or problems that might arise. Angry customers, missing products, and spills are just a few common issues that need you to be a quick-thinker.

There are five specific skills required by most places that hire a grocery manager:

  • You must be good with people. Customer service entails the fact that you’re going to be interacting with all sorts of people throughout the day. They might be mad, relaxed, sad, and so on. In any sense, you have to be ready for them all.
  • You must be an experienced leader. The grocery manager is an important leadership role that trains, directs, and fixes everything that goes on in their department.
  • Experience in some form of sales is another common requirement. Even if you have a college degree, you’ll have to work your way up through the customer service industry to land a grocery manager job. Nothing beats hands-on experience for 2-3 years.
  • Your problem-solving skills have to be as good as ever when you’re a grocery manager. Every single day a different issue will come up. Whether it’s a late arrival from a truck delivery or employees who refuse to do their job, problems are going to need fixing. Your job will be to solve those occurrences as they show up.
  • Organization is another important skill that you should have. Organizing the back room, employees’ schedules, and product orders can all be complicated tasks. Without the right systems in place, it’s easy for those things to fall apart.

Are those skills more important than a good attitude?

It’s worth pointing out, that a good attitude will almost always get you hired over experience if that experience comes with a bad attitude.

When I first got hired as a Grocery Manager for Whole Foods in 1992 (they use the term Team Leader instead of manager) I got hired over a few much more experienced people. One of those people had even been my 1st boss (and I still call him a friend today).

Why did I get hired with only 4 years experience over 3 much more experienced grocery leaders?

Because I came in with a positive attitude and was humble. But I also had a detailed plan of how to take a department that I thought was great and make it even better.

The other 3 came in more with the attitude that either the store owed it to them to hire them or that the store would be incredibly lucky to have them.

In the end, what was perceived as a bad attitude by the store manager and hiring team cost them the job and gave me my first shot at leadership. I went on to later win the National All-Star Grocery Team Leader award.

How Much Does a Grocery Manager Make?

If you’re considering a grocery manager job, you’re probably wondering how much money you’ll make.

Generally speaking, grocery managers make between $19,000 to $33,000 a year, according to salary and career experts Glass Door.

They can be paid either salary or hourly, depending on the company they work for. But generally speaking these days most companies pay hourly. The reason being is that legally someone isn’t supposed to be on salary if they can’t hire and fire on their own.

Most companies these days require decisions like that to go through store management and/or HR, to limit their liability. So, most Grocery Managers do not perform tasks like that without having to consult with someone else.

The average grocery manager makes about ~$25,000 a year, but this can vary.

Three key factors contribute to how much money a grocery manager will make:

  • The country, city, and state all matter. It’s much more likely that someone who manages a grocery department in a busy, populous city will make more money than a slow store in a small town.
  • Experience in the field also will play a role in how much money the manager makes. If they’ve never been a grocery manager, then they probably won’t make as much as a person who has been one for 5+ years.
  • The size of the company – Well-known nation-wide chains usually pay more simply because they have a higher store budget and a larger sales volume. This estimation isn’t always the case, but it often plays a role.

Companies often have some sort of profit-sharing program in place too which can provide additional annual or quarterly bonuses also. But these programs vary widely from company to company.

If you’re applying for a grocery manager position, ask about the possibility of bonuses in the future. They’re usually mentioned during the interview and hiring process.

How Does the Job of a Grocery Manager Differ from Other Departments in a Grocery Store?

The grocery manager is in charge and responsible for the grocery department.

As I mentioned above, each major department in a grocery store will have a department manager unless the store is really small and/or really low in sales volume.

Many of the tasks performed by a grocery manager will be similar to the tasks performed by other department managers. Those tasks include:

  • Scheduling employees
  • Ordering products from wholesalers and warehouses
  • Stocking the shelves
  • Mentoring their employees
  • Helping customers

The big difference is simply the kind of products they are selling.

Of course, each department also requires different skills. A Meat Department manager, for instance, needs to know how to cut meat, which is a trained skill and an art.

A Produce manager needs to know about the farms where their fruits and vegetables come from and also things like pesticide use and waxes used to coat things like apples.

In a recent article, I go a lot more in-depth about all the different positions in a grocery store and how they differ.

If you’re new to grocery store work, it can be confusing. You may also be unsure of which department or job suits your personality the best. So just click that link to read it on my site.

Did I cover everything you wanted to know about what grocery managers do?

Throughout this article, you’ve seen all of the important tasks bestowed upon a grocery manager.

They need to deal with everything in their department. Training, merchandising, sales, and customer service are the name of the game for a grocery manager.

If you plan on becoming a grocery manager in the future, here are a few tips:

  • Get 2-3 years of experience in the customer service industry (preferably a position at a grocery store).
  • Learn the essential duties and get yourself let the store manager know of your interest.
  • Remember that the customer always comes first.

At this salary level, Grocery Manager is a great job for someone in their twenties with plenty of energy. But it’s also wise to eventually look at moving up in the store to higher positions that pay better.

When I first made the leap from Grocery Manager to Assistant Store Manager, my salary almost doubled. And while the job got more mentally challenging, store leadership roles are considerably less taxing on your body too.

But it all starts with getting hired for that first position.

In a recent article, I give all my best tips for getting hired at a grocery store. After all, depending on what city you live in, there could be dozens of other people all going after the same job you want.

Having hired literally thousands of people over the years, I know a thing or 2 about how to make sure you stand out in a crowd.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

Jeff Campbell

Hi! I'm Jeff Campbell. I was a leader for Whole Foods Market for over 2 decades. I worked in 9 stores in 4 states, not counting the hundred-plus stores I've assisted in other ways. I was a Global All-Star, a Gold Pen Winner, and won Top-10 Store (company-wide) 3 times in addition to Best New Store (company-wide).

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