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Managing Logistics in the Retail Space With Michael Thomas

Updated: Oct 4, 2022

Mark Hiddleson

Michael Thomas is the Vice President of Supply Chain at Grocery Outlet, a leading extreme value retailer in the United States serving bargain-seeking customers since 1946. Michael is part of the team responsible for all logistics functions including inbound freight and store delivery programs for grocery, general merchandise, health and beauty, beer and wine, frozen, deli, and meat.

Grocery Outlet employs 1,000 people across the US. It has been family operated for almost 70 years and has a rich history of putting customers and employees first.

Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • How Michael Thomas entered the logistics industry

  • Michael talks about working on racking reprofiling projects and the evolution of third-party logistics (3PL) businesses

  • Grocery Outlet's deals on wine and beer selections and the company's outsourcing business model

  • Mark Hiddleson and Michael discuss some challenges faced in the logistics industry

  • How Michael handled a big hazard after joining Grocery Outlet and how the company has evolved over the years

  • Michael's advice to people looking to join the logistics industry

In this episode…

Are you thinking of joining the logistics and supply chain industry? Do you know what to expect? What are the challenges associated with the industry?

Michael Thomas, who has been in the logistics industry for over two decades, advises people with a keen eye on the logistics industry to be prepared to move around, show a willingness to take on extra work or new responsibilities, and be problem solvers. He knows firsthand how the industry has evolved over the years, so how can you get your best start in the field?

In this episode of The Tao of Pizza Podcast, Mark Hiddleson is joined by Michael Thomas, the Vice President of Supply Chain at Grocery Outlet, to talk about managing logistics in the retail space. They discuss challenges faced in the logistics industry, the evolution of third-party logistics (3PL) businesses, and Michael's advice to people looking to join the logistics industry.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

Sponsor for this episode...

This episode is brought to you by Specialized Storage Solutions Inc.


I have been in the logistics and storage industry for several decades. I know I don’t look that old, but it's true..

We provide industry-leading warehouse storage solutions nationwide.

So basically if you have a warehouse that needs Rack, Shelving, Carts, Conveyors or Mezzanines we help engineering, installations, inspections, and repairs to help clients optimize their logistics operations.

Sometimes people don’t even realize that we can actually help with permit acquisition services.

We take a look holistic at your entire business supply chain ecosystem to develop the resources for continually improving your operation.

To learn more, visit or give us a call at (707) 732-3892. One of the best ways to learn more about our products and services is to follow us on instagram. And there’s a link on our website to do that.

I will even give you my personal email address for podcast listeners so email me at if you’re ready to take your warehouse storage and retrieval systems to the next level.

Episode Transcript:

Mark Hiddleson 0:01

Welcome to The Tao of Pizza, where we feature top logistics leaders, entrepreneurs and supply chain innovators and share their inspiring stories with a holistic twist.

Mark Hiddleson 0:13

Mark Hiddleson here host of The Tao of Pizza Podcast where I talk with top industry innovators in the warehousing, logistics, and supply chain business with a holistic twist. Before I introduce our guest, Michael Thomas, this episode is brought to you by Specialized Storage Solutions. Listen, I've been in the logistics industry for several decades. I know I don't look that old, but it's true. We provide industry leading warehouse storage solutions nationwide. So basically, if you have a warehouse that needs rack, shelving, carts, conveyors, or mezzanines, we've helped with design engineering installations, inspections and repairs to help our clients optimize their logistics operations. It's funny Michael, sometimes people don't even realize we can actually help with permanent acquisition services. We take a holistic look at your entire business supply chain ecosystem to develop the resources for continually improving your operation. To learn more, visit Or give us a call at 707-732-3892. I'll even give my personal email address for podcast listeners. So email me at if you're ready to take your warehouse storage and retrieval systems to the next level.

So we have Michael Thomas with us here. He's a supply chain veteran. And for the last two decades, he's been involved with the supply chain of Grocery Outlet. He's part of the team responsible for all logistics functions, including inbound freight store and delivery programs for grocery general merchandise health and beauty, beer and wine, frozen, deli, and meat. He's accomplished it through a distributed network of outsourced and company operated DC's operating in four, it's actually six states now, California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Pennsylvania, and Idaho. The total number of employees in their supply chain is just over 500 with the majority and filled locations, and a very small headquarters stuff handling inbound and imports. Grocery Outlet is a leading extreme value retailer United States serving bargain seeking customers since 1946. Publicly held, Grocery Outlet employs 1000 people across the US, headquartered in Emeryville, California. Grocery Outlet has been a family operated for almost seven years and has a rich history of putting customers and employees first. Michael, welcome to The Tao of Pizza.

Michael Thomas 2:34

Thank you, Mark. Good to be here.

Mark Hiddleson 2:37

Yeah, it's good. Good to have you here. I've been looking forward to this for a while. It's actually this conversation is one of the reasons I started this project because you've been a great client over the years, and you've been a great resource for me learning in this business, and you were one of my first really good clients, and you were already pretty much a senior supply chain leader when I met you. So I'd like to know like what the earlier days of your career or even how you got into logistics what what was it like?

Michael Thomas 3:09

Gosh, you gotta go back into the mists of time for that one.

Mark Hiddleson 3:14

The space time continuum,

Michael Thomas 3:16

space time continuum. So I started out of college with a company called Christian salesperson in the UK. That was in I don't even want to say this. Alive, but in 1980. All right. So after a few years knocking around the network in the UK, different distribution companies and other businesses. I was one of my most memorable spells was in our fish selling business back in, in Scotland in the in the early 80s, early 1980s. That was a lot of fun. And then I was in the logistics business, which was all cold storage in those days. Back in the UK, we acquired a property business in the United States in 1986. And I got the opportunity to come to the United States. It was for a two year stint. But the way these things happen, I met someone over here we got married, we have children, and here it is 30 something years later years. Yes, I'm still here, right? Yeah. So I'm delighted to be here and since I came to the States, I had some similar travels with Kristian salvus and and successor companies. So I've worked in northern Cal in California. I've worked in Southern California. I've worked in Atlanta. I worked in Buffalo, New York. I worked in New Jersey. I had spells in Texas. And that is a great lesson for anyone that logistics business. You're prepared to move around and take on increasing responsibility. Companies are looking for that sort of That's sort of that's sort of help people who will move and solve a problem somewhere. And we'll get on in the logistics business. Yeah,

Mark Hiddleson 5:09

that's great advice. And I'm thinking, you know, that for supply chain has been on everybody's mind recently, because there's problems. But when I got even when I got in this business in the mid 90s, and even up until recently, people didn't really know or even talk about what the supply chain was. So and what did you do before? Did you go right out of school to work for Christian salvation.

Michael Thomas 5:37

So I went into what was called a graduate trainee program at the time. Basically, you were cheap labor. In various,

Mark Hiddleson 5:45

that's what the program is.

Michael Thomas 5:48

Operation, various operations. So I worked, you know, I worked a couple of years on a shift pattern, you know, two to 1010 till six, six till two, which really is a good way to understand the business to work different shifts, right. So a lot of that in the early days was basic blocking and tackling. How do you get trucks out on time? And logistics hasn't changed a lot? And we tell you, it's still about how do you get trucks out on time? We got a little bit more sophisticated, our systems are better. But it's really still about how'd you get trucks out on time? Yeah, absolutely. And the supply chain, it's a good point you make supply chain isn't really noticed till it's not working.

Mark Hiddleson 6:28

Right. It's just my, my stuff shows up at the store. And I go and get it. Yeah, absolutely. And when we first met, and I wanted to ask you about this, one of the and this has kind of been a trend for me, the first opportunity we had is, it was somebody working for you and contacted us, because you had a project that was uh, I think pretty sure was a racking reprofiling project, but it seems like in our industry, or in that was p&l at the time, which had bought out Christian cells, and but it's a third party, frozen or refrigerated warehouse. What is it that makes the project? So right now, like, you have to have it right now. Because the way we got in is somebody else had planned on doing the project? And they were it was the last minute. And it was the type of thing like this needs to be done. But what what is it that drives those, the timing on on things like that.

Michael Thomas 7:20

So in that business, that was a third party three PL business where we're doing logistics for other people. So the major changes in that type of business are you get a new customer, and that new customer has got a start date, and you better be ready. So that's, that's what drives those types of projects in the third party world, in the, in your own environment, you can be a little bit better planned. But in the third party world, you're going to respond to what customers need. And sometimes the customer wants it sooner than you really like you'd really like to do it. So that was probably one of those scenarios.

Mark Hiddleson 7:56

It's already signed up the customer. And then as soon as they say yes, then you're gonna get ready for it. Yes. Because there have left the dock heading your way. Right. Yeah. And that is a, it seems like it's a theme. And I've looked for those opportunities we just had, I just had a new client in the wine industry. And they were the same way they had had somebody kind of they fumbled the ball was last minute. And next thing you know, I'm calling everybody I know, to see who can do a Saturday install. And it's Thursday. So it is anytime your third party warehousing, I think that that's going to be an issue. And I also wanted to you know what I found in my, I outed myself on on another podcast and people questioned me about as I got into this business, for the money. I've gotten, I've got keys for that. And it wasn't it really wasn't it was really early that I found like I started because I wanted to it's kind of like you said you're willing to move around to get up. But I really, I found early on, it's the relationships in, in business that really, it makes it worthwhile. I think you can solve problems in a better way. I mean, I think a lot of people when they talk about us a relationship, they think it's a soft skill, or it's something and you and I, you've taught me a lot about supply chain questions. I asked a lot of questions and you've been a resource. And then I've tried to teach you about the racking business a lot. I was thinking like you, you know too much now. And you know what happens when you know too much. So, I'm giving you a little bit of a hard time but you had to know that was coming but a lot of what we've done for you is reprofiling and that's such a skill that you have, you've learned kind of us working together, you've managed to get a lot more pallets out of the same queue of warehouse Do you mind? Share with me kind of what your thoughts are on that.

Michael Thomas 9:54

So it really depends on the underlying business is different shape and depth, particularly of racking, required for different types of business, in a grocery and fast moving distribution business, you you're really not carrying 200 pallets or something where you need deep storage, you want instant access to most of your pallets, you're going to pick off the floor level if you don't automate it. And it's just a different pattern from a storage business. Most of the three PL business, certainly years ago was was a storage business. And has gravitated over time to a distribution type business. And a case picking business. For a lot of lot of third parties. This sort of business would have given people fits 30 years ago, or 40 years ago, because they're in the bulk storage business. And that's changed, people want more than bulk storage from their third party providers now.

Mark Hiddleson 10:52

And they've pushed it even even with the third parties, we're shipping mostly to stores. And then the last outlet has had been about the last 10 years where things are getting to now, you know, the direct to consumer is probably our fastest growing. So it went from just storage. And then it was distribution. And then now we're getting to direct to consumer. And I know even in your business that people are looking at that, you know, somebody orders something on on the telephone, and it shows up. Where have you been? Well, you find it in the yellow pages,

Michael Thomas 11:29

right? Ah, yeah. So buy online pick up at store, Opus is a big thing for retailers. And then the beat not you know, that's really the method that works for a lot of people who are vendors out there who are developing their own warehousing. They don't have a store network. So Accardo, for example, in the UK, is delivered to people's houses, they have no stores, it all comes from small regional warehouses, they do a fantastic job. The US is a little bit behind that most of our is both is buy online, pick up at store, or there are a number of home delivery outfits linked to stores. So for example, Instacart, you can order through Instacart, they will pick your order at a store and then deliver it to your

Mark Hiddleson 12:18

house. So then that happens. It's not actually a grocery aisle employee, but somebody else Instacart. So it's another third party that does the shopping and then they just pay well they just pay with a credit card or Yeah, yeah. So for you, it's another client,

Michael Thomas 12:32

if a customer can't get out, but likes your values and wants to shop the store. It's another method for them instead of getting in a car and driving. So it's really a great flexibility. Now a lot of people like the in store experience. And I do think in the recent period with disinflationary push we're going through at the moment, the store experiences coming back for a lot of people were not sheltered at home, ordering off Instacart and all the other delivery services, right? Yeah, people are getting out more. So that's definitely changing the retail landscape right now.

Mark Hiddleson 13:11

Yeah. And speaking of change, so I lived. I grew up in Modesto. And right on the corner of Prescott and Briggs more, it was the Rural High, high. But there was a there was a store there at that time grocery aisle. This was called canned foods,

Michael Thomas 13:30

Inc. That is still number 22 in the network, is it? It is the one number 22 That's the store I used to shop at when I lived in Modesto. It's doing great business now. It's a perfect example of the Grocery Outlet model. Our operators in that store live in Modesto that local people they have a huge network of friends and community, the chamber. And that stores do it does really well. And it's been there a long time. Yes, it was originally canned foods. And then we've morphed to the grocery aisle at target market. Yeah.

Mark Hiddleson 14:07

Because back in those days you went in and it was there was a white can and it said beans this was a yellow

Michael Thomas 14:14

going back icon with this old

Mark Hiddleson 14:18

now I was I when I lived there was through high school, but you walk into a Grocery Outlet Store now and they're nice stores and one of the things and you gave me this idea of almost 20 years ago they get really good deals on wine. And then now I've noticed also bear it's a great place to go and just have some fun because it changes right what's their changes what you see, you know, so you have found some really good wine buys at the Grocery Outlet.

Michael Thomas 14:50

We that's the opportunistic model. There are you know, wind buys with perhaps the the winery doesn't have enough to interest the big chain or they're doing a label change. And there's a great half a truckload of a really good wine. And our buyers will take advantage of that. And our beer selection, our craft beer selection is huge in a lot of stores. tremendous variety. Yeah,

Mark Hiddleson 15:15

I've noticed that I've seen stuff in the warehouse. And then I thought, oh, I need to go to the store to get some of that. Let's,

Michael Thomas 15:21

well, I've got a story about that. So as you know, where we work with Americold in Modesto. For many years, 25 years our, our rep from America was a lady called Debbie stone. And Debbie used to see our ceilings coming through. And she would add to the orders for her local store, which happened to be 22 that store by John Prescott. And then she would go to the store. And they'd have what she'd sent them, which he wanted to buy. And so the store knew if they saw something on an order that they hadn't ordered. Frequently, it was Debbie just adding something she wanted to make sure they have. Debbie, if you see this ever hope you're well and enjoying your retirement because Debbie retired earlier this year. So Thanks, Debbie.

Mark Hiddleson 16:16

That's awesome. That's a supply chain and action story of

Michael Thomas 16:21

different sort of bow pits. That was the fire at the warehouse pick up in store.

Mark Hiddleson 16:26

That's nice. Nice back before that was even a thing. Yeah. Awesome. Well, I also wanted to get into so you're running in there's 500 employees and it's network between you've got a miracle Do you have other partners that you work with to accomplish? So you're basically you outsource the cold? Is that what it is? Are there other things

Michael Thomas 16:46

now we outsource a fair amount of the business actually to provide us so we do our size, outsource the cold and refrigerated to America, there have been a tremendous partner for us they they run four locations for us, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Ontario, California, Tacoma, and then the the homebase the big kahuna is Modesto. And we opened Tacoma when we have had enough stores in northwest. We've opened in Ontario a couple of years ago, as we've added stores in LA. And we have an operation also in moundville, Pennsylvania. That's a story about moundville Many years ago with CSI, which was one of the companies that in the in the sort of ownership trail for all the old merchants refrigerating, which became Christian salicin, which became CSI, which became p&l, which became verse to coal. I think the filing ship is now a miracle is that that's how the business has changed. So the site in Mount field, Pennsylvania that we're now at was the first site that we put a new WMS into that our second site, we put a new WMS into, in like 2002. And when we acquired the Emilio's chain in Pennsylvania, we had to we wanted to make different distribution operations. So I was calling on outfield and Americal a lot of the team members who were there when we were putting that WSN was still there. So I got to work with people I've worked with 10 years before, and some of them still left. So it's, you make great contacts in this business. And it's amazing how many people you've bumped into a future point in time.

Mark Hiddleson 18:36

It makes it you know, for me, it always makes it easier to do business that way too, because you already have a rapport. There's a relationship there and you can do things that you couldn't ordinarily do. And it reminds me I even almost hesitate to share this story with you and I so you've given me some great referrals over the over the years because you subleased part of your freezer at the at the Grocery Outlet site to another client I can't even think was at Foster Farms at the Crystal Creamery. They had an ice cream program and they needed racking and he said I have best racking guy in Northern California. And I said, I'm assuming are yours. So I got some knucklehead who can put rice racks in for me. I'm sure he could put it in for you. It was a good referral. It was it was a great introduction. And we ended up doing that project. And then I don't know how many years later when they wanted to sell it back. You remember how long it was? They only had it for probably five or six years was it? Maybe 10? I don't think it was 10 years.

Michael Thomas 19:42

Yes, they got bought out and they wanted to take the stuff out of the freezer. So did you get to buy back the raccoon golden blank, no nickel on the dollar or something.

Mark Hiddleson 19:51

So it was more like 10 cents but he wouldn't buy it. There was a lot of labor involved

Michael Thomas 19:57

in telco. Yeah, and you probably We have to find it and palletize it to.

Mark Hiddleson 20:03

And then what we did is rather than ship it back to my yard, since I knew it was something you were going to need in the future, I think we just parked it on your side of the fence. And then as you needed it, I didn't charge you until you needed something. And, you know, we could have shipped it to other customers, because he just kind of let us use that space. But we ended up selling that. So it was nice for me. We didn't have to move it. But it was nice for you. You knew you had if you want to do a project that you had something.

Michael Thomas 20:31

Yeah, that was great, right? That was the Fraser structural stuff, right? It was really,

Mark Hiddleson 20:35

really good stuff. And, you know, I couldn't do that with just anybody or so you're gonna park $150,000 worth of racking somebody's yard and say, hey, I'll trust you that in six months, it's still gonna be here. I don't think we touched a single beam. I know you didn't, because we nobody wanted to do it except for us. So you would hire us to go and put it in. And it reminds me those with the profiles, that's something we've over the years, you know, Grocery Outlet has so many different racking profiles, you've got taller stuff like paper towels and lighter chips that everything up really tall locations, and you've got smaller palettes like mine, canned foods, some of the others that you know, it's a small 50 to 54 inch high palette. And we've gotten better and better and better at getting the elevations dialed in ahead of time

Michael Thomas 21:26

during we try and sort of plan once and plan twice and cut once now.

Mark Hiddleson 21:32

Yeah. And because I know you and I've had some interesting phone calls, and I don't use four letter expletives that much in business. But sometimes it comes up which which reminds me of another question I want to ask you is what is bloody Hillman? And anyone who knows, Michael, it can listen to it as if you've heard it. It's it's a must be some kind of sign of love. Right?

Michael Thomas 22:01

It's it's a low level expression of frustration, however, that. Yeah.

Mark Hiddleson 22:07

Which happens, right. And that's one of the things with this business, all the greatest planning, you could put into something ahead of time and get the drawings and get everybody to sign it and everybody's on board. And then what happens sometimes always isn't the perfect result or for us, sometimes somebody else in the DC we just had that happen. We did everything ahead of time, the drawings, the plans, and that was the job we did on a Saturday. But then of course, the person that I ironed everything out with wasn't there on Saturday, gave it to somebody else. And Matt had different ideas about the way it should be done. So luckily, Cody, my product project manager was there. And he was able to say no, no, Mark was here on Friday, he counted everything himself. He had this drawing made, we're doing it to the drawing. And that was enough. But uh, I think that was the last time you and I had a phone conversation was when that didn't happen.

Michael Thomas 23:02

I think we found I was walking in place one, one evening on Saturday or something. And I just was racking I just didn't like to look off in the levels didn't feel right. And we stick with the drawings fix it. So it's good. It is. And

Mark Hiddleson 23:17

we've invested, I've invested a ton of time the last three or four years at first, on the drawings, I would just do something by hand and hand it to the guys and go and it was fast. And you know, we just found that was kind of a bottleneck for us. And it's, it's hard for us to get clients to spend the time before the project to look at the levels because it's actually it's really hard to do until you see it. It's kind of like moving into your house. You never know where to put the TV until you see where we want the couch. And racking can be hit seems simple. Okay, it's profiles you want to 5262 72 But when you've got ceiling height limitations, rack height limitations, forklift I limitations. And a really tremely knowledgeable operator about racking knows how to find the mistakes. Even great. And that's what I mean that I've learned from YouTube because I can take some of the things where either we made a mistake or you taught me something about and then I take that to my other clients. That's one of the reasons I love having you on is that I mean it's it's a learning and I'm trying to teach you a little bit about racking and and I think it's made there was a major safety factor when you took over the position that grocery aisle and you knew immediately. Do you remember that? Do you mind sharing that story? Do you remember what it was like to walk in that first day and what what we what we saw what we were able to accomplish?

Michael Thomas 24:41

Yeah, we we had some racking it's called American slide rack. It's actually pretty good racking as as rollfilm racking goes it's about as solid as I've ever seen. Yeah, yeah. Heavy Duty. Heavy Duty really good. Shall we still have some of it? Yeah, the difference is that we've now anchored to the floor.

Mark Hiddleson 25:02

Yeah, remember, when I told you you said, Hey, is this okay? And I said no, because we're talking about law, right? You looked on the aisles. And it was like an S. It was like, like a wave. Yeah. And when I told you we had to that it was called American slide rack that we had to anchor you said, Isn't it called American slide rack, because you can slide

Michael Thomas 25:21

it slide it

Mark Hiddleson 25:24

back and forth. And now we got to anchor this stuff. But we did. We anchored every single location, and then we continued to do safety would probably replace damage and, and do safety, safety

Michael Thomas 25:38

and quality of which I think I've thought about this a couple of repairs, we need to get some back back into operation right now, Mark, I know when your team's here next. But as we always are with miserably tight for space. And I walk past this rackets X out, and it drives me up the wall. So

Mark Hiddleson 25:56

yeah, so Scott, in Cody spoke this morning about that there's three locations that we have on the schedule for first part of next week. Monday is a holiday. Yeah, Monday is all that wasn't gonna go to this meeting without having that answer. I knew there was a potential.

Michael Thomas 26:14

Yeah, thanks. Yeah, yeah. So you look at the progress in 97. And you know, where it was, when we started, we had all the other floor level. Roller racks. Right. Right. So I mean, those we filled those in, we've changed out a lot of the American slide rack, we've gone from roll form to structural we've gone, you know, we've added some 2d, 3d, five deep in some areas.

Mark Hiddleson 26:48

Dino Dino, how much capacity? I know you've been doing a ton more business out of that same building since you started there. David, do you have an idea what the numbers are as far as cases or pallets or anything? Do you know, of course?

Michael Thomas 27:02

Is the pope Catholic? Yeah. So what? So when I started, we were doing about 220,000 cases a week. How many to 22 to 20,000. Cases. Yeah. And a normal week now is more like 640 to 656 60.

Mark Hiddleson 27:26

And verbal butting

Michael Thomas 27:29

in COVID. At the height of COVID, we were doing over 800, our biggest week during COVID was 820,000. Wow. So that's only that was we were able to get that done, because Grocery Outlet has an incredibly flexible system. And we were able to change the order profile for stores to concentrate on frankly, grocery and get grocery to the stores at a higher cases per line than we normally do. And that enabled us to ship more cases for that a very short period of time.

Mark Hiddleson 28:02

So share what do you mean by grocery versus grocery versus? Versus what do you have other stuff? Yeah, so

Michael Thomas 28:09

we've got health and beauty and health on general merchandise, right?

Mark Hiddleson 28:13

And that beer and wine is even separate from grocery. Yeah, great. Well, we

Michael Thomas 28:16

generally pick beer and wine with groceries. Okay. But that's consumable. Customers needed that beer and wine, join COVID. Right. So we have to get that out. Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Well, that's,

Mark Hiddleson 28:29

that's just, that's awesome. That's three. And so basically, same number of employee or you haven't added.

Michael Thomas 28:37

We haven't got three times as efficient.

Mark Hiddleson 28:39

Well, we're just doing the same in the same building, but you have more people getting more product. So more throughput, basically, with more people.

Michael Thomas 28:48

It's more throughput for sure. So the fixed costs have gone down, but the people cost have gone up. I mean, wages are significantly higher over a period of time. And the business profile has changed quite dramatically. So back in those early days, we would ship a lot of pallet items, we would choose a lot of product in layers. And now we ship way fewer bad items and a limited number of layers. Because grocer, as you said in your comments about grocery aisle, it's evolved into a deep discount grocery store, if you're prepared to buy, you know, Hunt's ketchup versus Heinz ketchup and get to catch up, you're going to be able to do a full shop at the Grocery Outlet and save a lot of money. They have changed to serve that increase in mix over over the years.

Mark Hiddleson 29:38

And that's the whole it's every industry has gone to I've heard it told at a conference, the proliferation of skews it's the the

Michael Thomas 29:47

the bane of my life. So we're, we're very fortunate that our planning and purchasing teams are pretty disciplined when we buy something it's because we want to excite the customer with that item, or it's an item the customer has to have. So we don't tend to have items that last for 12 months. You know, items come and go, because we're going to price them to be exciting for customers.

Mark Hiddleson 30:13

Yeah. And you have a whole buying team. That's what their focus is getting the

Michael Thomas 30:19

red yeah, there's a substantial group of people in head office in Hollis in Emeryville, buying for grocery department, deli department, frozen meat, general merchandise, HBC and bear one.

Mark Hiddleson 30:34

Yeah, so I'm getting close. I know you have a timeframe on others. But I wanted to ask you, if you had any advice for somebody who is interested in getting involved in a career in supply chain, you know, what would you say are there in the supply chain? You know, do you have any advice of people wanting to get into like your type of business?

Michael Thomas 30:55

Yeah, I think. First off, try and make sure you get to college. And if you're not even college, get to college while you're doing the job, get it, get a qualification and then volunteer to take on extra work. There's a lot of turnover in our business, people who show willing, that will take on responsibility can can rise up to the top and to get other opportunities. And if you're, as I said earlier, if you're prepared to move and take things on, that's a great, great experience. And, you know, if you join a three PL company with lots of operations, there's going to be opportunities all over the place. Because good people are in short supply. And in logistics, common sense and good skills with people will get you a long way. This is not actually a rocket science business. It's a blocking and tackling and common sense business.

Mark Hiddleson 31:52

So blocking tackle, roll your sleeves up. I have I've seen you still I see you in the in the warehouse sometimes in your in the senior leadership of the company. And you're in a tracksuit taking orders and tracking your efficiency. I'll do the case for second right in here.

Michael Thomas 32:14

Yeah, well, the guys are very good to me. They give me some of the lighter tasks now. So it's, but yeah, we'll we'll pick if, if we're in deep in deep trouble we're gonna pick because it's about servicing the stores.

Mark Hiddleson 32:27

But that was one of those ways you got 100,000 cases out the door if the item was yes. Is that you pulled 200,000 of those cases?

Michael Thomas 32:37

No, but you know, you remember Joe was picking the arm was picking, Adrian was picking and we were able to jump a lot of extra bodies onto the floor. And it's not all about what that does for cases. It's about telling the crew that we're here to help. Right. And we're not standing back. Well, while they're in trouble. We're not asking them to do 12 hours a day. Well, we we sit around.

Mark Hiddleson 32:59

Yeah. And I've seen you pull cases you work fast. You walk fast. You're Are you still running? I know you used to run. That tracksuit wasn't just a costume. Are you still getting some

Michael Thomas 33:13

we have an opportunity in our gym here that the treadmill is down at the moment? Nice.

Mark Hiddleson 33:21

Well, first, I got we've had Michael Thomas here. We've had the pleasure of talking to him for a few minutes. I mean, just supply chain leader great advice. I love what you said about get an education, but get started if you can and then go to school. I mean, that's how I did. I worked my way through school. And it's a great way if there's extra opportunities of roll your sleeves up. And then I meant to ask you still was Grocery Outlet. Is that a place? Are you guys hiring? In the logistics? And are you hiring?

Michael Thomas 33:52

We're hiring. We're growing and we're hiring. And we're always looking for good talent.

Mark Hiddleson 33:56

So what would be the best way? If somebody was interested in Grocery Outlet? Well, how do they how do you prefer to have a website you

Michael Thomas 34:01

have? We have a website and there's a careers page on there. If you're in Sacramento, you could even drop by the DC and ask to see one of the warehouse team. Hosts holster Council General Manager as for loop, you'll be delighted. who's not here as Pedro Santos. If he's not here, check if I'm here.

Mark Hiddleson 34:19

Dynamite. Thanks so much, Michael. This has been awesome, man. I love what you bring. And you've been a great client. And thank you. Thank you and even for audience, I thank you because you've had some great advice, great ideas. And I look forward to seeing you at 97 or maybe on the golf course or the tennis court.

Michael Thomas 34:44

That'd be fun. All right, Mark. Thank you very much enjoyed it.

Mark Hiddleson 34:47


Outro 34:48

Thanks for listening to The Tao of Pizza Podcast. We'll see you again next time and be sure to click Subscribe to get future episodes.


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