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Exploring H-E-B: Community Focus

heb store

A sense of responsibility to its community has been part of H. E. Butt Grocery Company BB #:106490 since its founding by Howard Butt Sr. and Mary Holdsworth Butt.

Five percent of the company’s pretax earnings has been donated to charity since the early 1900s, and H-E-B remains a strong supporter of local causes from veteran groups and educational opportunities to providing free meals to food insecure residents.

The retailer maintains a full-time, in-house kitchen operation dedicated to hunger relief for food insecure residents, through the H-E-B Food Bank Assistance Program and the annual Feast of Sharing holiday dinners.

During the pandemic, H-E-B also launched a pilot program to sell ready-made meals from local restaurants, with all proceeds going back to the restaurants. Started in San Antonio, the program expanded to other markets, including Houston and Austin.

Another way the retailer serves residents is through in-store eateries. True Texas BBQ, first opened in 2014, is housed inside 14 stores in 12 cities and has been cited by reviewers as the best barbecue restaurant in some of the cities where it is located.

Other in-store options include True Texas Tacos, Flaming Bird, South Flo Pizza, and True Texas Boil House.

Additionally, in 2020, H-E-B opened its first in-store food hall in Austin, called Main Streat, with multiple eateries including its True Texas BBQ as well as a Roots Chicken Shak, through a partnership with celebrity chef Tiffany Derry.

The company has also been buying land around its San Antonio headquarters. A $100-million expansion began in 2014, with plans to double its downtown workforce to 1,600 by 2030. Its new tech center in San Antonio will bring 500 additional jobs.

All told, the company has more than 120,000 employees. New stores employ as many as 500, and company policy requires at least 70 percent are hired from the local community. “The company employs many partners [employees] and in many cases is the largest employer in the community,” Huddleston says.

Surveys tout the retailer’s reputation as a good place to work, with H-E-B ranking at the top of worker satisfaction surveys from companies such as Glassdoor. It has long had a particular focus on treating hourly employees well.

“It’s not just talk, it’s action,” says Don Johnsey, founder of JD Johnsey Associates in Plano, TX, an independent consultancy to the grocery retail industry.

“Employee loyalty plays a big role [in H-E-B’s success],” says retail expert Carol Spieckerman, president of Spieckerman Retail in Bentonville, AR.

“Its proactive approaches, such as its decision to distribute $500 bonuses to associates during Covid, demonstrate its commitment to associate well being. H-E-B’s corporate culture encourages individual initiative and empowerment, ensuring the company can recruit diverse, multigenerational talent.”

This is a feature from the Texas Supplement to the March/April 2021 issue of Produce Blueprints Magazine. Click here to read the full supplement.