Food safety is of vital importance

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 July, 2012, 12:00am


From ensuring the freshness of thousands of types of foods, to innovating to meet changing customer needs, high-end supermarket and retail chain City Super Group is committed to offering top-notch products and services.

'The company attaches great importance to quality. We make certain that we provide excellent services to our customers,' says Thomas Woo Ka-wah, president of City Super Group.

The company has three brands: City'super, selling mostly imported fresh foods, gourmet products and groceries; LOG-ON, offering trendy lifestyle items; and cookedDeli dining court.

Food safety is one of the core aspects of quality assurance and is safeguarded at every step of operation, from sourcing and logistics to storage and packaging.

'We would go to oyster farms in France, inspect the production environment, understand the process by which farmers handle the oysters, and find out how quality control is conducted. We need more than an export certification,' Woo says.

A temperature-controlled supply chain is essential for maintaining food safety, he adds.

'We have to assure the quality of oysters transported from Brittany to Paris and then to Hong Kong, using ice-packaging technology and checking that the temperature is right, among other things.'

Frontline staff are given rigorous training on handling fresh foods, such as what temperature to store them at, the level of hygiene required and how to clean and package them for customers.

In addition to upholding product quality and safety, the company is constantly seeking to raise the bar on customer service.

Shoppers are welcome to express their views to customer service staff or leave comments on the company's website, Facebook or Twitter page, and customer surveys and focus groups are conducted periodically.

Woo says customer complaints give the company the opportunity to improve service quality.

On his regular visits to the stores, he chats with his staff and customers and takes note of what is done well and what needs to improve.

Keeping staff motivated is the key to delivering quality services. For Woo, engaging employees is the responsibility of every manager as well as the human resources department. 'We want to create a happy and friendly staff environment,' he says. 'For example, when we have mystery shoppers in the store, the purpose isn't to penalise members of staff, but to reward them and find out if our plans work on the ground or not.'

One of the challenges the company faces is having to maintain quality service in the face of high turnover. 'Customers are becoming more knowledgeable and we need to keep our staff well-informed. But training takes time. We are working on a knowledge-management system. Meanwhile, we continue to deliver effective training,' Woo says.

Among the initiatives to improve customer experience in recent years, Woo says the superlife culture club has been a major success, with food and wine lovers attending cooking classes and learning about different ingredients, such as where the pasta comes from, how to cook the vegetables, and the pairing of wines with dishes.

'We aren't just a grocery store,' Woo says. 'We hope our customers can enjoy our products to the optimal level. The customer experience doesn't end at the cashier.'