Zingerman’s Community of Businesses (ZCoB)
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Founded in Ann Arbor, MI in 1982 as a traditional deli that prized high-quality ingredients and exceptional customer service, the Zingerman's Company of Businesses now employs 525 staff at its multiple outlets, which include a bakery, creamery, mail-order business, restaurant, and a consultancy group. They rely on Michigan's diverse agriculture for local vegetables, fruits, hogs, chickens, eggs, and dairy products.
The art of producing superior value-added foods, and telling their stories to customers, is central to the ZCoB model which uses profits to underwrite community service projects like the Food Gatherers, which delivers over 2,000 pounds of surplus food six days a week to community agencies feeding people in need. While they have a plan to introduce 12 to 18 new businesses to their roster by 2020, Zingerman’s vows never to franchise. Each Zingerman's entity is operated independently, but all 15 partners meet every two weeks to report on successes, trouble shoot, and plan for the future. They also subscribe to a common set of guiding principles and make all major governance decisions across the companies by consensus.
“In the eyes of public,” says co-owner Paul Saginaw, “we’re one business because they don’t know how we’re set up. We strive to have the same quality levels, service levels, and pricing.” By keeping their entities small-scale they are able to focus on service and quality, the two foremost characteristics that return increased profits. As Saginaw told the New York Times, "We’ve had dozens and dozens of opportunities to franchise, sell the name, take the check, and walk away.” Instead of growing big, however, Zingerman’s has chosen to "grow deep.”
Special note: If you are interested in replicating the Zingerman’s model, they do offer classes on how to do so. See http://www.zingtrain.com/.