Leadership and Serving: Publix vs. Kroger

When I first started serving as a volunteer at church our leader gave an analogy that has stuck with me. It is my goto example I have told over the years to each team I lead. He said, “you need to have a Publix vs. Kroger attitude when leading and serving.” Next, he laid out a simple, yet profound way to understand what he wanted us to do.

Let’s Go Grocery Shopping!

Have you ever shopped at Publix or Kroger? I’m willing to bet most of you reading this have done so, probably more than once. Think back to your first time walking into the store. For you seasoned shopping veterans this may be a challenge. Hold that thought and, instead, allow me to ask a few simple questions. Did you know where everything on your list was located? Most likely not. At which point you are dealt with two primary options you can use to find the missing items.


Option one, you engage in an infuriating game of hide-and-seek throughout the entire store. Some wasted time later you discover the item in question laughing at you a mere aisle over from whence you originally started searching. This is the default option for us men. We don’t require direction or maps; our manliness and ego are enough to locate even the most undiscoverable of items. Yeah, right. I definitively know where two things are in a grocery store, the entrance, and exit.

Ask an Associate

Option two comes either after you are beaten from hide-and-seek or you’re a veteran and don’t have time for childish games, therefore, you choose to go straight to the source: a store associate. Store associates know where most everything is in the store by design (training) or from experience. Simply ask them where an item is and they generally know right where it should be or at least what aisle it should be on. The differing experiences in this option are what I would like to explore in greater detail.

Publix vs. Kroger Experience


A majority of the time when I visit Kroger and ask an associate where an item is they simply respond, “that should be on aisle X,” which is often accompanied by finger-pointing in the direction of the aisle. This is the typical response no matter if the associate is busy or not. I want to be clear about what I regard as a busy associate. I am referring to someone stocking shelves, sweeping floors, returning items to the shelves, etc. not those who are helping other customers. On several occasions, I have asked the same associate more than once where an item was because I could not find it even after being given direction. Each time I was met with the same verbal and hand-pointing response.


In contrast, when I visit Publix I have a much different experience. In Publix, if I ask an associate where an item is, the response is night and day. The associate stops whatever they are doing and kindly takes me to the item I have requested. Not only do they help me find the item I asked about, they ask, “is there anything else I can help you find?” If you say ‘yes’, they will again escort you to the newly requested item’s location. If you choose to respond with ‘no’, they reply, “if you do need more help, please let me know and I will be glad to assist you.” Wow! What an awesome way to shop. The incredible characteristic is it does not matter if the associate is the manager, assistant manager, stocker, cashier, department-specific, or floor sweeper the attitude towards the customer is always the same.

The Difference Experienced

The difference between Publix and Kroger’s experiences are quite clear. The Kroger experience is not necessarily wrong, but Publix customer service crushes it and then some. When I train an individual or a team, I start with that comparison right out of the gate. I want to set the tone for what is expected of my team. I want us to crush expectations and deliver a Publix experience to everyone we encounter.

Here are three quick thoughts I add to reinforce the comparison:

  1. It starts with the top. The correct attitude and service start with the leader and trickles downward. John Maxwell said it best, “If you wouldn’t follow yourself, why should anyone else?”
  2. Take, don’t point. We offer solutions to help people get to where they need to go, we don’t just point and let them figure it out. We then ask the question, “how else can I help you?”
  3. Love people. This is arguably the most important piece of advice I give that was given to me. At the end of the day, we are called to love those around us. If we can do that effectively and genuinely, we will succeed at taking care of those we are serving.

Do you walk the talk and provide a Publix vs. Kroger experience? Does your team do the same? Take some time and evaluate how you can improve your team’s ability to better serve people. If you don’t lead a team, what are some ways you could improve the way you engage with your customers?

Photo of boxer by Attentie Attentie on Unsplash

20 thoughts on “Leadership and Serving: Publix vs. Kroger

  1. Kroger in my town is truly going down hill….as a customer I am never right…they use to offer all kinds of perks…buy one get one free On vitamins and supplements, if u just wanted one, they use to offer the one for half the price, in other words, 2 would be $6.00, one would $3.00…great for the people with limited funds…if they were out of something they would substitute…expired Items are on the shelves constantly…I have to check expiration dates constantly, if I get home with expired item and I have misplaced my receipt, I and SOL…even though everyone in the store knows me, been shopping there for 30 years plus…there are lots other examples…bottom line, they just don’t care anymore, and it shows….Kroger👎

    1. The baggers at my Kroger offer carry out to every customer and although customers insist on a tip..they don6t accept…did this reporter visit ever Kroger every day?..no one is 100%

  2. In our Kroger, if I can’t locate an item, I have been assisted by being taken to the location! Our Kroger is GREAT! And much less expensive!!

  3. I lived in Florida and have always loved Publix. I now live too far north for Publix, and I can’t stand Kroger! When I had cancer and going to the grocery took all of my energy, I once asked a bagger to help me with my groceries and his response was, “I have to stay here and bag.” I pushed my cart to my car and was literally in tears as I tried to load the bags into my van. Another customer came and helped me. God bless her. I looked like a cancer patient wearing a bandana over my bald head so anyone who looked at me had no doubt I was sick.

    1. Isolated..you can’t blame every Kroger for here and there issues…Publix has uninterested employees as well

  4. Well its great that some places allow you to help the customer and not expect u to work magic and get x amount of stuff done kroger wants you get so much done being one person so i cant stop and show a customer where every item is because my day for example today got stopped by 9 ppl so i pointrd done they alir abd said if u cant find it let me know

  5. I have NEVER received that kind of attitude at any King Soopers store (a Kroger company) The associates are always willing to help find any item.

  6. If that is your overall experience in any retail establishment it’s generally a reflection of how the company treats the employees. In my experience the employees at our area Kroger’s are overwhelmed, unappreciated, dealing with being understaffed, and they’re under paid.

    Pay attention to how they’re being treated, not only by other customers, but by their supervisors as well. In my 20 years of management I’ve never treated my people the way some of these workers are treated.

    1. When you are pulled in every direction..it leaves no room for the first thing they should give..Good customer service

  7. Kroger’s deli and bakery do not even come close to publix and Kroger charges. 50 cents for cash back ….Really

  8. I can only address the Kroger I shop at as customer service awful. Why do I continue to shop there because it is convenient no visible management check out time is horrible with few baggers I have bragged my own groceries on numerous occasions

  9. I have been A kroger shopper for many years. The company is always concerned about what their customers need. They have brought in products that the store did not have at request. They are there for your need no matter what . And they do direct you to where you need to be,and they make sure your need has been taken care of .Since 1980 KROGER has been the best for me and my family and the best pharmacy to be with. They havebecome our outside family. DO NOT put a company down unless you have proved it. And I have also shopped Publix. They are a good store. But if both were in town I would chose KROGER. it is store that give you more for your money

  10. I work at Kroger. We are constantly understaffed. Every task we do is timed. So when someone wants us to trek halfway across the store to find honey which is on the top shelf of the jelly section next to the peanut butter in aisle 6. Or the refrigerated English muffins that are by the eggs in the dairy department. No I do not always have time to hold your hand and skip there with you but I will try to get you every item you are looking for. Btw when you ask meat department workers to cut up your 69¢/lb on sale whole chicken and you are not elderly or otherwise disabled we hate you.

  11. Agree, Kroger in my area takes you to the item, in Publix I’ve had more pointing or IDK than taking. So my experience has been the opposite of the author’s. However, his point of leadership vs serving is a good example of how to treat customers.

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