What Grocery Store Pays the Best? (& has the best benefits)


I loved working in grocery stores. But when you’re first starting out, it’s not uncommon to wonder what grocery store pays the best?

Here’s what I know from 2+ decades of experience:

Whole Foods Market and Costco both have a starting wage of $15.00 per hour. That makes them the highest paying grocery stores of the stores that report starting wages. However, Target plans to raise its starting wage to $15.00 by the end of 2020. Walmart, by comparison, currently has a starting wage of $11.00

But that’s only the beginning!

You also can’t go solely on base pay alone. Some stores offer benefits even to part-time employees. Others may do 401k matches, health insurance, and employee discounts.

So it’s important to look at the big picture.

Working in a grocery store can be a great experience with lots of opportunities for advancement. Whether you are new to the workforce and working part-time after school, or changing careers.

So, what is the highest paying grocery store? What is the best store to work at? Do any grocery stores provide employee discounts?

Keep reading to find more!

What is the highest paying grocery store?

One of the best things about job hunting for work at a grocery store is that stores are always hiring. Literally every store. From the small grocery store in rural America to the big chain in the city, you won’t have a problem finding work.

High pay, on the other hand, can be hard to come by.

So, which grocery stores pay the most?

The federal minimum wage is currently $7.25 per hour. (source)

Fortunately, many stores are going well above and beyond as it relates to minimum wage. In fact, when I was running the original Whole Foods store in San Francisco 18 years ago, our starting wage was $10.00 and many cashiers who had been there a little while were closer to $20/hr.

Stores like Target, Costco, and Walmart all pay well over the federal minimum wage.

Here are the best-known stores from highest to lowest paying:

  • Costco & Whole Foods Market comes in at the highest at $15.00.
  • Target starts off at $13.00 per hour and will increase its wages to $15.00 per hour by the end of 2020.
  • Trader Joes starts off at $12.03 per hour
  • Walmart’s minimum is $11.00 per hour.
  • Safeway starts at a disappointing $9.76 per hour 
  • Kroger starts at a disappointing $8.15 per hour 

(sourcesource & source & source & source & source)

But different positions may have a different starting pay rate. You may be surprised to see how many people it takes to keep a grocery store up and running!

For example, a cashier may start off at $13.00 per hour at Target, but someone who stocks shelves may start off at a different rate; especially if they are working what’s called the “graveyard shift”.

That’s when they stock shelves overnight, often arriving for work at 10 pm.

Not sure what all the different positions are in a grocery store?

I break it all down for you in this recent article. I get into every position and what the job description is and requirements.

After all, if you’re going to excel at it and make the most money possible, it needs to be aligned with your skillset.

Just click the link to read it on my site. 

But what about pay, hours, and benefits combined?

After all, great pay doesn’t mean much if they only schedule you 20 hours a week.

And it might be worth taking a dollar an hour less if they cover most of your health insurance. So based on the information the top companies make available, cross-referenced with companies like Glass Door, please refer to the following chart:

Grocery Chain Starting Wage % of Full-time Employees Provide Health Insurance? Paid Time Off? Employee Discount?
Safeway $9.76 37% “Affordable options” Yes 10%
Kroger $8.15 not available Yes Yes 10%
Walmart $11.00 50% “Affordable options” Yes 10% off some items
Target $13.00 not available Yes Unclear 10-20%
Whole Foods $15.00 not available Yes Yes 20-30%
Costco $15.00 59% Yes Yes 190
Trader Joes $12.03 not available Yes Yes Yes

Sources not listed elsewhere: (source & source & source & source & source)

What is the best grocery store to work at?

Grocery stores can be great first part-time jobs. They can also be an excellent stepping stone to a permanent career.

Trader Joe’s has been listed in Forbes as being the best place to work. Costco and Wegmans have both made the list, too. (source)

Not only does Trader Joe’s pay above minimum wage, but they also provide benefits like health insurance, paid time off, and a company-funded retirement plan to part-time and full-time employees alike.

Employees love working at Trader Joe’s, too. They encourage a culture of camaraderie and sharing responsibilities throughout the store. They even encourage employees to sample the food they sell!

But, of course, Whole Foods Market has also made the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For, for almost all of the past 25 years.

Costco made the list of top employers, too.

In March 2019, they raised their minimum wage to $15.00 per hour. They also provide part-time workers and full-time workers with access to benefits like health insurance, 401K, and PTO.

Being a team player is an important aspect of working in a grocery store. On busy days you may have to leave your department to help out a coworker.

Not sure what it takes to be a successful grocery store employee?

Take it from me. I worked for Whole Foods for more than 2 decades, starting at the very bottom. Eventually, I became one of their best and top-awarded store managers.

So I know a thing or 2 about being successful in that environment. To learn more, read this recent article.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Do any grocery stores start at $15 an hour?

Yes!

Costco raised it’s minimum wage to $15.00 per hour in 2019, less than a year after they raised it to $14.50.

Target has announced that it will be raising its minimum wage to $15.00 per hour by the end of 2020. (source)

Trader Joe’s doesn’t have a specific minimum wage they pay across the entire country. Instead, they pay a wage that is competitive with the surrounding area. Each starting pay is based on what it will take to attract the best talent.

In some places, Trader Joe’s minimum wage is $24.75 an hour??! But $12.03 is currently their average starting wage.

All of these stores provide part-time employees with benefits, too! Things like medical and dental insurance, paid parental leave, access to retirement plans, and even PTO (paid time off) are offered to part-time employees.

This is a great improvement from working at a grocery store 20 years ago.

20 years ago, grocery stores paid the federal minimum wage and didn’t offer any fringe benefits to part-time employees. Employee retention wasn’t a priority.

It’s wonderful that so many employers are making their employees a priority. Work should enhance your life and make you feel valued. Not like you are just a cog in the machine.

How much does Costco pay an hour?

In March of 2019, Costco raised its minimum wage to $15.00 per hour.

Not only do they go above and beyond the federal minimum wage, but Glassdoor has also awarded Costco in its “Best Places to Work” list every year since 2012. (source)

Employees love working at Costco, too. 80% of former and current employers would recommend working at Costco to their friends. (source)

Costco has “great benefits,” even for part-time employees.

The most important benefit, though, is that they offer health insurance to all of their employees, including part-timers. They also offer a matching 401K plan, PTO, and a Thanksgiving turkey.

When considering how much a company pays per hour, it’s important to think about the benefits package, too.

While it’s not something you use every day, health insurance, PTO, retirement options, and disability insurance should all be considered when job hunting.

It’s also not often that companies offer benefits to part-time employees.

So, if you are looking for a job, even a part-time one, Costco should definitely be on your list!

But when applying, know that in some job markets, you’ll be up against dozens, if not hundreds of others!

In those cases, it pays to know an insider’s perspective on how to get noticed and get your foot in the door.

Luckily, I break that all down in this recent article with lots of valuable tips on how to land the job.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Do you get a discount if you work at a grocery store?

Sometimes.

But if they do offer a discount, it won’t be much.

While stores like Aldi provide excellent benefits, even to part-timers, they don’t offer employee discounts. Their prices are already so low, they can’t reduce them much more if they still want to make a profit.

Trader Joe’s and Meijer both offer employee discounts, too.

When I worked for Whole Foods Market (I left in 2013 before Amazon took over), they had a tiered discount system.

Everyone got 20% off once they were out of their initial hiring probation system. But if you were open to submitting for a physical (that they paid for), you could get a larger discount if you had low blood pressure, low cholesterol, and low body mass.

Essentially, and again, this was voluntary, they paid their employees to be healthier. 

I don’t see mention of that system on their website today, but it does say “Plus, after six months, you have the opportunity to increase that discount up to 30%.” (source)

An employee discount, while nice, shouldn’t be your deciding factor in where you choose to work. It’s important to look at the whole benefits package.

Things like health insurance, dental insurance, and retirement plans can’t be replaced by a 10% discount.

And while benefits are great, company culture is important, too. You spend a lot of time at work. You want to work at a place you love and where you actually want to be.

Did I answer everything you wanted to know about which grocery stores pay the best?

In this article, we talked about the highest paying grocery stores.

We talked about what stores pay $15.00 per hour to start. And we also talked about what stores offer benefits to part-time employees.

Then we also talked about what stores offer employee discounts.

Working at a grocery store can be a great experience. Whether it’s your first job or you are looking to supplement retirement.

With a variety of departments, you are bound to find a position you love.

You may even be interested in becoming a store manager. If that’s the case, read this recent article to find out what kind of education and experience you need to get into management.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Which grocery store will you work at? Will you make it a career or will it be a stepping stone to another career.

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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