Redner’s Markets director details hiring, employee retention

A Conversation with: Randy Kostelac, director of corporate training and education for Redner’s Markets Inc. 

LVB: Redner’s Markets is one of Berks County’s largest employers. How many people work for you and what are some of the jobs with the company? 

Kostelac: Redner’s currently employs around 5,300 wonderful associates which includes our supermarkets, convenience stores, warehouses, central kitchen, and corporate office. We offer a wide variety of positions throughout the company from entry level store associates, skilled position apprenticeships, department managers, store management, truck drivers, warehouse selectors, just to name a few. 

LVB: Many retailers are having trouble finding the right workers? What is Redner’s doing to attract top talent? 

Kostelac: Yes, it is very difficult to find the right workers these days. Over the past few years we have placed more emphasis on providing more benefits to our part-time associates. Including offering healthcare benefits to employees who average 30+ hours per week, accruing vacation time within the first year of employment, but our staple has always been providing a very flexible, family friendly work environment. We hear from employees every day about their appreciation of our flexibility to work around their family’s needs. We have a wonderful culture throughout our company and provides us the ability to attract the best of the best. 

LVB: What is it that Redner’s looks for in an employee? 

Kostelac: The most important quality we look for in a perspective employee is someone who puts the guest first. Providing first-class customer service is what we do and it is a priority each and every day We are interested in candidates who are service minded with outgoing personalities. Our guests love to interact with our employees and appreciate the genuine care and service they receive when they shop at any Redner’s. Of course, we also look for a commitment to working their shifts and providing an honest day’s work. We try to keep it simple. 

LVB: What makes Redner’s a good company to work for? 

Kostelac: Redner’s is committed to working around the needs of each employee. Everyone has a different situation, and we approach this on an individual basis. It’s no longer a one size fits all approach. Every employee provides significant value to the success of our company. We offer top-notch benefits and flexibility which makes us a great company to work for.  

At Redner’s Markets, ‘It is all hands on deck.’

When the governor encouraged Pennsylvanians to stay at home to help stop the spread of the coronavirus, people swiftly headed to area grocery stores to stock up.

Faced with a two week quarantine at home, shoppers hoarded toilet paper, eggs, bread and meat. While a snowstorm might cause some panic-buying, this was on another level.

Redner’s Markets, a Pennsylvania-based supermarket chain, got four times the amount of normal traffic last week. -PHOTO/SUBMITTED

I stopped at my local Redner’s Market for chicken, only to find the chicken aisle bare. Cleaned out. Not a breast. Not a thigh. Not a chicken wing to be found.

“It is across all stores,” said Eric White, director of marketing for Reading-based Redner’s Markets, which is an independent chain of supermarkets with locations throughout Pennsylvania.  “We are experiencing challenges with distribution and supply.”

While the amount of food available was adequate for a normal week, when customers flooded stores last week the regular supply was quickly diminished. To stop the hoarding, Redner’s is allowing store managers to set limits on the number of items customers can buy of certain foods, like toilet paper or meat.

“We are getting regular shipments of beef, baking items, and bread, but we can’t get it on the shelves fast enough,” said White. “We are getting four times the normal buying traffic, and replenishing product and trying to get ahead is challenging.”

Under normal operating conditions there would be enough food on the shelves, but when customers over-buy items, it drains inventory and warehouses and supermarkets have to catch up. There is no food shortage, it is that the customers are over-buying.

“It’s not at the level of last week now,” White said. “It is slowing down. And we are putting limits in place. It’s all hands on deck and we are doing our best to get the food on the shelves.”

White also said that due to the massive buy out of certain items like eggs, there have been commodity price shifts. “The price of eggs jumped over 200 percent,” he said.

“We understand the burdens placed on the stores,” White added. “We understand the guests’ fears.”

Redner’s is reducing store hours and closing earlier every day to restock items and clean and sanitize the store. The chain is also giving all store employees $2-an-hour raises until the crisis passes.

“All praise goes to our store folks,” White said. “They have been positive and up for the challenge. They are going about their business. We could not be more proud.”