Deli Business 19th Annual People’s Choice Award Winner: Cheryl Whinihan

Sales Manager Deli Food Service/Northern California Division
Albertsons Co./Safeway/Vons/Andronicos Banner
Berkeley, CA

Q. How has your career evolved over the years?
A. I started my career in the Seattle division as a senior secretary in the floral department. I worked through many positions, including buyer, category manager, retail merchandiser, group director and now deli sales manager. Half of my career was spent in the floral business and the other half was spent in the deli foodservice business. I have worked with the company 34 years and managed through the centralization of Safeway to California and the merger between Albertsons and Safeway.

Q. What is your leadership philosophy?
A. I believe that leadership is a privilege. It is about motivating and empowering others to succeed. I love to build strong teams who work together to achieve customers for life for the store and deli department. I feel I am a supportive and considerate leader and love the people side of the deli business. Leadership is not always about managing others; it is about being a role model for others in the industry. I consider myself an innovative and progressive thinker who is a servant leader to our retail deli operations.

Q. What is the best advice you ever received and why?
A. Believe in yourself. Trust in yourself. Remember to give yourself a “break” and allow yourself to take risks; not everything will turn out the way you would like but that is OK. You learn from it, and it makes you stronger!

Q. How do you balance your work and personal life?
A. LOL – not very well. We work in a fast-paced industry with more than enough projects to keep us busy. I always say, “The work will always be there tomorrow!”

Q. What deli retail trends have impacted the industry most over the last year?
A. Fresh, convenient meals is a fast growing segment. Grab-and-go segments are growing faster than full service counters. Online ordering like DoorDash, Uber Eats, catering/special order business have bounced back since COVID. Store experience matters.

Q. What technology or technical tools are indispensable to you in the workplace and why?
A. Here at Albertson Cos. we have many tools that help us make better decisions around category management, pricing and promotion. We know about our deli shopper, and this helps us select items and build programs to help grow sales and units. Retail deli operations now has iPads to help with orders, day-to-day business, production tools to help with in-stock conditions, recipe build sheets. For example; no more printing of Recipe/Production Books, as now it all is found on our deli iPads; this improves on productivity and food safety!

Q. What have been the biggest changes in the deli industry over the course of your career?
A. I think the workforce and the struggles to find associates who want to work/stay/make it a career in the deli department.

Q. What is the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome on the job?
A. I think every day is a challenge; to launch new items and create new programs to help our deli operations grow sales, units and profit. Deli is the most difficult department in the store with production, cooking/frying, food safety and the full-service counter. Myself and team work hard at improving productivity and training for our deli teams so we can hire and retain them.

Q. What hobbies do you enjoy outside of work?
A. I love to work in my yard and garden. I also enjoy antiquing and working on craft projects.

Q. Are you married? If so, how long? How many children?
A. Yes, I’ve been married 34 years to my husband Pat. We have no children, but we have a dog named Bella. DB


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