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Overview Founded in 1871, Smart & Final Inc. operates 229 non-membership warehouse stores in the western United States and northwest Mexico under the Smart & Final (183 stores) and United Grocers Cash & Carry (46 stores) names. The stores carry a broad range of restaurant-quality food, foodservice supplies and culinary equipment.

While Smart & Final stores target both the foodservice and household markets, United Grocers Cash & Carry stores are focused exclusively on serving foodservice professionals. Foodservice customers typically include operators of small restaurants, catering companies, businesses, clubs and civic organizations. For household customers, Smart & Final stores provide a convenient, low-cost source for cooking and cleaning needs and are seen as the preferred destination for stocking-up their kitchens and preparing for holidays, parties and events.

The company is headquartered in Los Angeles, where it was started more than 130 years ago as the Hellman-Haas Grocery Company. It later took the names of subsequent owners J.S. Smart and H.D. Final.

Building from its strong foundation in Southern California, Smart & Final expanded throughout the state beginning in the early 1980s. It extended its operations beyond the California state border by opening stores in Nevada in the late 1980s, and in 1990 introduced the Smart & Final concept to Arizona. In 1998, it acquired Portland, Oregon-based United Grocers Cash & Carry, which operates 46 stores in the Pacific Northwest.

Industry Overview

Smart & Final competes across several traditional industry classifications. It has evolved from a traditional “Cash and Carry” concept, to a hybrid serving both the wholesale and retail market for food, supplies and culinary equipment. Although it competes with supermarkets for the purchasing dollars of household consumers, its low-price, warehouse format and restaurant-quality product assortment clearly differentiate it from other competitors in that segment. It also competes with warehouse club stores, but is clearly differentiated by its smaller store size, focus on a single product category and lack of a membership fee. It might also be considered as a “category killer” (for restaurant-quality food and supplies) although the average size of a Smart & Final or United Grocers Cash & Carry store and number of SKUs carried is clearly at the low end of companies generally considered under this group.

Both of Smart & Final’s store concepts are well-positioned to benefit from current trends in foodservice, including:

consolidation of the foodservice direct delivery industry
growth in “away from home” food consumption
the rise in discount purchasing of food by households
Traditionally, the foodservice customer was served by direct delivery companies. However, the industry has become highly consolidated. The direct delivery companies that remain are increasingly raising their minimums for “drops” of merchandise. These minimums are often beyond the level of what a smaller foodservice operator requires.

Warehouse-format stores such as Smart & Final and United Grocers Cash & Carry have been filling this vacuum by offering restaurant-quality, institutional size merchandise and products devoted specifically to the foodservice market. At the same time, the growth of this market has been fueled by the increase in “away from home” food consumption by families with two working parents.

Those same busy households also are increasingly seeking low-cost options for meeting their “in the home” food consumption needs, as evidenced by the growth of warehouse club stores and supercenters and food sales by mass merchant discounters. In addition, the access to and acceptance of bulk-packaged products by household consumers has broadened the customer mix and increased the proportion of retail shoppers’ spending dollars in warehouse stores. Smart & Final stores provide busy, value-conscious households a convenient, low-cost source for the same restaurant-quality food, supplies and culinary equipment used by foodservice professionals. In addition, customers do not pay a membership fee to shop at Smart & Final.

Jobs at Smart & Final

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