Grocery Outlet’s AOT Program Gives Independent Operators a Leg Up

Posted Sep 20th, 2017

Aspiring Independent Operators get taste of business before opening a grocery store

Six months after opening a grocery store in 2007, Jason and Kathy Olson were approached by Grocery Outlet: Would they be willing to train another couple about everyday grocery retail operations? The Olsons, who are Independent Operators of the Pleasant Hill, CA, location, said yes. Since then they have trained 11 different couples under Grocery Outlet’s nurturing Aspiring Operator Training (AOT) program and have made some great friends along the way.

Kathy and Jason Olson (left) trained Desak and Brandon Brewer as part of Grocery Outlet’s AOT program. The couples have become close friends.
Kathy and Jason Olson (left) trained Desak and Brandon Brewer as part of Grocery Outlet’s AOT program. The couples have become close friends.

Among the many couples the Olsons have trained are Brandon and Desak Brewer, Independent Operators of Grocery Outlet’s Santa Barbara, CA, store. The four of them try to get together regularly, Jason says, and are close friends. Recently they vacationed in Las Vegas and even got matching tattoos.

Jason Olson, Kathy Olson, Desak Brewer and Brandon Brewer kicking it up in Las Vegas.
Jason Olson, Kathy Olson, Desak Brewer and Brandon Brewer kicking it up in Las Vegas.

How Grocery Outlet’s AOT program works

Grocery Outlet recognizes that opening a grocery store takes a lot of planning and operations strategy and work in the trenches. That’s why the AOT program allows trainees to see what daily life is like as an Independent Operator. The program works as an apprenticeship where incoming Independent Operators, known as Aspiring Operator Trainees (AOTs), work with established Independent Operators for six months to a year.

“We want to give AOTs a real-world experience in running all the day-to-day operations before they start a grocery store. That best happens in the store environment with experienced operators who live it day by day,” says Grocery Outlet’s Senior Director for Training and Recruiting, Josie Crudo. “With the AOT training program, we’re creating an environment where it’s safe for them to learn and safe for them to make their mistakes early on. They learn how to troubleshoot and solve these problems before they go out into the field.”

The AOT program consists of different learning modules, and Independent Operators who are trainers have to ensure that the AOTs they coach meet requirements in each module from working on cash flow statements to creating a local store marketing campaign. Classroom learning supplements the program to give AOTs a comprehensive, immersion-based training experience.

Grocery Outlet’s AOT program is a win-win

Jason Olson says that he and his wife, Kathy, love training new recruits because it’s a fantastic way of giving back. “It’s a wonderful thing to do because you were given that store training, too,” Jason says, adding that the Aspiring Operator Trainees become great employees who can often take over managerial tasks. This makes the program a winning formula for all.

The best part about Grocery Outlet’s AOT program, Jason says, is that new Independent Operators get a taste of what to expect and what it’s really like, warts and all, before opening a grocery store. “I always tell people, this is not a career, it’s not a job change, it’s truly a lifestyle,” Jason says. “The AOTs come in and see you at your best and sometimes not so best for months at a time. That gives them a really valuable perspective. It’s not like taking a college course and you leave at the end of the day. Here, you see and train with the professor every single day.”

Learn more about Grocery Outlet

If you’re interested in learning more about our grocery business opportunity and how you can leverage your experience to own your own business, we urge you to consider Grocery Outlet. You can download our free information report for more details about our business and grocery manager responsibilities, or learn more by visiting our research pages.

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