Vancouver Island grocer Quality Foods is celebrating 40 years in business and now have something else to celebrate - being named one of Canada’s best employers.
Founded in Qualicum Beach four decades ago, Quality Foods was named to the Forbes list of ‘Canada’s Best Employers’ for 2022. The list was developed by Statista, who surveyed more than 10,000 Canadians working for businesses with at least 500 employees. All the surveys were anonymous, allowing participants to openly share their opinions. The respondents were asked to rate, on a scale of zero to 10, how likely they’d be to recommend their employer to others. Statista then asked respondents to nominate organizations other than their own. The final list ranks the 300 employers that received the most recommendations.
Quality Foods president and co-founder Noel Hayward said he was “thrilled” with the accolade.
“We started in small towns and grew with the communities. Our people have always been the key to our success, they like where they live and enjoy helping people in the neighbourhoods they serve,” he said. “This ‘small-town grocer attitude’ has been even more evident over the past couple of years with all the disruption and uncertainty in the supply chain. We’ve worked together to provide a safe and hospitable environment for our customers and employees; we were very excited to hear this news.”
Hayward said he was especially pleased the recognition came from their own employees.
“We are very proud our people surveyed honestly really liked where they work and I think it has a lot to do with how we handled the pandemic last couple of years,” he said. “As someone who has been here from day one, it feels really good to get recognized from your own people. It means more.”
He said their ability to effectively manage through the COVID-19 pandemic was aided in part by a massive ‘total-loss’ fire two decades ago in Qualicum Beach.
“I think that was definitely an experience in crisis management,” said Hayward. “What we learned is take care of your people and take care of your customers and everything will work out fine. And it has.”
As soon as the pandemic was announced by the World Health Organization, said Hayward, they implemented a $2 per hour temporary pay premium for employees. That increase eventually became permanent.
In 2020, they began using an innovative piece of technology called the ‘Clean Cart’, the first of its kind in Canada, which uses far-UV light to kill 99.9 per cent of viruses on shopping carts. Now, when customers enter Quality Foods, they can grab a cart, push it into the cleaning cube, wait for the light to turn green and go about their shopping.
Hayward noted Quality Foods was also an early adapter of other pandemic precautions now widely used, such as plexiglass shields and the AEGIS Microbe Shield on checkout conveyor belts.
In 2017, controlling interest in the company was transferred to the Jim Pattison Group.
“I told Jimmy (about the Forbes honour) and he was very impressed,” said Hayward. “He said, ‘you know, we’ve been doing that for 75 years and this was a first.’”