Kwik Trip – a different route to success

“I’m proud of our people,” says CEO Don Zietlow, who looks like the kind of grandpa figure you want to see behind a counter when you’ve run out of bread and milk and it’s Sunday.


Zietlow is a man with a keen eye for figures - he sells groceries, and then some. In 2009, the industry saw a 7.6% drop in profits. For Kwik Trip, it was the most profitable year in their history. They are clearly doing something very right.

Community Pie

Recently, Kwik Trip received 40,000 applications for 3,000 positions.

“They [our people] want to give good customer service… and they want to have the best quality food. So if we can give them the tools, and if they can share in the pie, it’s a lot easier.” The company’s hiring policy concentrates on skills, but also focuses on what they term ‘intangibles’: adaptability, dependability, work ethic, and professionalism are part of the essential tool kit for their trade.

Not only do people want to work there, once they’re there, they want to stay. Industry average for turnover of employees is 52%, for Kwik Trip it’s is 23%. Its 9,500 employees are served up a 40% slice of the company’s pre-tax profits. There’s also an innovative benefits package including the ‘Families Helping Families’ scheme, where employees can elect to make deductions from their own paycheck to help co-workers’ families who are in financial hardship.


The company has a vertically integrated structure, meaning that it manufactures many of the goods that are its top sellers. It passes the huge savings on delivery costs to its customers. “If you aren’t going to be efficient, you’re going to die”, states Steve Loehr who is Vice President of support operations.

So here is a world in miniature: pretty much everything is done in-house. Raw milk arrives straight from the dairy to be pasteurized and packaged in one building (they make ice-cream with the cream); in another, bakers aided by robots are cooking up donuts, bread rolls and cakes; and in the commissary building they’re making pizzas, salads and sandwiches… Oh and here comes a truck full of tropical fruit straight from overseas; the bananas going to one of Kwik Trip’s 5 huge ripening rooms.

You expect Willy Wonka to trip around the corner any minute.