Scarfing At Stew’s: The Sequel

A few days ago, I ranted about a segment of shoppers at Stew Leonard’s: the folks who — in addition to all the free samples — scarf down bagels, wings, ziti (and anything else) as if it too were “free.”

The story drew 30 comments. As expected, they ranged from “hey, everyone does it” to “those people are not only stealing from Stew’s, they’re stealing from me!” (higher prices, for you non-econ majors).

A few minutes ago, Stew Jr. (Himself) weighed in. But his comment is not what you might expect:

Scarfing at Stew’s — Dan, you make me laugh!

Stew Leonard Jr. (right) and a non-scarfing friend/customer.

There are some “scarfers” at Stew’s, but that day we also had about 10,000 really happy people and families because of all the free samples and “tastings.” When we have our demos of free food (100 a week). we get people from local businesses coming in for lunch! What do we do? We can’t let this very small percentage (less than 1%) of our customers dictate our policy.

This morning I watched a mom come in the store with her crying baby. She grabbed a bagel. The baby “teethed” on it and stopped crying. She spent over $300 on food. What’s a bagel?

If you want to go “nuts,” stand by our loose pistachio display. I find shells all over the store! When we package the pistachios, sales drop in half.

Let them scarf. My brother and I will smile! Happy New Year — and let me treat you to some of my mom’s lasagna next time you’re in the store!

Who knew?!

And a couple of lessons learned:

  1. Scarfing does not really hurt the bottom line.
  2. Stew Jr. owes me a lasagna dinner.

19 responses to “Scarfing At Stew’s: The Sequel

  1. That is why Stew is the Mater of Marketing & Customer Service.

    And his fench toast bagels ROCK!!!!!!

    Jeb Backus

  2. I myself always take two pistachios when I round that corner.

  3. VetDoc at Compo

    Hey Stew,

    Thanks for joining our little “Stew’s Blog”!

    Nice to hear it from the lips, of the man himself!

    I will now feel much better as I graze the next time I am in! LOL


  4. More people in this world should take a moment to lean about customer service from the Leonard’s.

    And their french toast bagels are smokin!!!!!!

    Jeb Backus

  5. I never heard the word”scarf” to mean “grazing”. Is it a real word? I know it to be fabric worn around the neck and that is what the dictionary says. Oh,well

    • From The Online Slang Dictionary: “Scarf: To eat hastily, usually implies a general satisfaction with the quality of the food.”

  6. Wow – I am totally impressed. While not a big Stew’s shopper because I have too many specialty items on my list (Sorry Stew!) I go there to roam because I have 3 kids under the age of 5 who love the “dancing banana”. We’ve never eaten while shopping but good to know in melt-down situations, I won’t be frowned upon!!

  7. I always give my kids bagels as we shop through Stew’s… and then I pay for them. I hand the cashier the empty bag and tell her how many we ate. That’s obviously not possible with the pistachios or buffalo wings, but it’s possible that some people are paying for items already consumed. 🙂

    That said, I love Stew’s response!

  8. Richard Lawrence Stein

    Many moons ago in 9th grade we had career day. A young Stew Jr. Was one of two speakers. To asure he he had our rapt attention he gave out the newly introduced fresh hot chocolate cookies baked by sister Beth. At the end of the presentations there were still dozens of cookies left and how did we “SCARF” them up. Thirty years later that sits in my minds eye. Thanks Stew Jr. big fan.

  9. Stew`s Rocks! Stew jr`s response rocks. Nuf said!

  10. Last year I was “Grossed out” by a woman with a small child in the cart. (Danbury) He had a runny nose and was sneezing, obviously sick. She placed the basket of those “free” cider donuts in the cart with him! Allowing him with a smile, to pick and toss around the free be’s to find the ones he wanted. He sniffed a few!! His fingers that were in runny green nose and mouth were now roaming the samples!!! UGGG!!! She put it back after he grabbed a handful and walked away. I did give the basket back to one of the bakery workers adn she tossed the rest. I think grazing or “SCARFING” can be a good out-turn for sales, but please, don’t touch and put back the ones you don’t want. That was so nasty and the mother, was in her zone I guess. We love to come to Stew’s and try new samples. We have bought items we would have never bought if we did not try or admit, “Scarf!”

  11. To echo Diana, I saw a woman fill a take out container with salad and then use her hands to take out the pieces she didn’t want and throw them back on the salad pile on the salad bar. Seriously, people: graze and scarf all you want, but leave your hands out of it! I’m at Stew’s almost every day (I’m a terrible meal planner) and I love everything they have (just finished my Stew’s steel-cut oatmeal!)


    A class act response from a true gentleman.
    PS…you need to put that awesome kale soup sample into a container I can PURCHASE and take home!!

  13. Thanks, Stew Jr. You are a class act.

  14. David Loffredo

    Stews is always on Fortune’s Top 100 best places to work and the attitude and enthusiasm comes from the top down. Along with Mitchells I consider them two of our “town” gems and happily patronize both – when I can afford to do so….

  15. The store will now attract the uncivilized animals who will come to steal (or are we calling it “scarf” now?). I don’t think this was a prudent message for the store to put out there. You want people who will steal from your store? Yonkers WILL oblige you.

    • Michael,
      Stew’s does have security. An officer will come after you if you cross a line. I know as I’ve personally witnessed a gentleman “scarfing” down about 10 meatballs at its salad bar. So, no worries.

      Also, it’s his business, therefore it is his prerogative….

  16. Here you have a small encapsulation of why Stew Leonard’s has been so successful for so long. I hate the term “he just gets it” because I’ve heard it used so many times to refer to executives who in reality “just don’t get it”! But Stew serves his customers great products at sometimes great prices (never over-priced) in the most welcoming environment you can find in a retail super-store. In Stew’s case, he really does “just get it!”. Thank you Stew! As someone said earlier, you are a class act.

  17. I’ve witnessed ppl at the wing bar actually leaving their wing bones on the wing bar. Who does that? Nasty, disgusting & unsanitary. I would never buy from the wing bar, salad bar or even from the pistachio bin. I hate to think how many dirty, germ filled hands are in there everyday, not to mention that it’s an open buffet for any rodents.