Residents report growing pains with transition to Food City

Authored By chloe.morrison

Change is generally difficult, and the recent switch from Bi-Lo to Food City has caused some growing pains. 

Some area residents have complained about the quality of the store’s meat and produce. Another said they’ve seen expired products on the shelves, and some said they are disappointed with overall selection.

But Food City leaders said they are committed to quality, and a couple of area residents have had excellent customer service experiences. 

Area resident Alison Van Winkle regularly went to Bi-Lo in St. Elmo before the change, and said that she now probably goes to Food City more. 

But she has heard about and experienced some of the new store’s need for adjustment. She’s heard the complaints about meat products.

“We only ever purchased chicken there and miss our Springer Mountain Farms brand,” she said via email. “I have noticed that they only carry their own brand in the meat department.”

There are other products where there is no variety-just Food City brand-such as jars of olives, she said.

“They are having trouble keeping certain organic produce in stock, such as lettuce and celery, but I’m sure that goes along with growing pains and finding suppliers to work with,” she also said. “Having said that, they have a great price on organic tomatoes, and Bi-Lo never had organic tomatoes.”

Food City CEO Steve Smith said that he and his team are dedicated to providing customers with exceptional service and fresh, high-quality products at the lowest prices possible.

He also said the stores have a very firm dating policy on all of their products that is strictly enforced with department heads, store managers and supervisors/management teams.

“Our perishable operations have been very well received in the Chattanooga market,” he also said. “We have received numerous compliments for our meat, produce and bakery/deli operations.”

And despite some complaints, both Van Winkle and area resident Paige Wichman have had positive customer experience interactions. 

Wichman said she noticed some members of a neighborhood group email list complaining and another person encouraging area residents to provide feedback to Food City. So that’s what she did. She requested that they restock some of the gluten-free items that Bi-Lo carried. 

“Almost immediately, I got a call back from … customer service…” she said via email. “[The customer service rep] asked for specifics-not only brands, but actual items and promised to talk with buyers.”

The two also discussed some of the “chatter” on the group email list, and Wichman said that the customer service representative was “very kind, very inquisitive, very good at her job.”

Wichman was more than impressed at this point, but it got better when she got another call two days later. This time it was from the manager at the St. Elmo store. 

“He wanted to let me know that they had already ordered some of the [gluten-free] pizzas we wanted and they would be arriving imminently,” she said. “They were also expecting some of our bread. In addition, he wanted the brand names of the organic dairy products that we buy.”

Van Winkle said that she’s had positive experiences talking with store employees, who are responsive to her requests.

“The manager has even introduced me to corporate people who are visiting and had them listen in on my questions and requests,” she said. “They have all been very helpful.”

Smith said that there’s a 100 percent satisfaction guarantee at the stores and that leaders encourage feedback through a number of forums, such as the website, toll-free phone number, U.S. mail and through store management and supervision teams.

“Customer service is absolutely our number one priority and is the cornerstone of our entire operation,” he also said. “Every decision we make centers around what is best of our customers and what will be of the greatest benefit to them and our associates.”

Some area residents on Twitter also provided feedback.