Food, Food Artisans

Renowned Chocolatier Comes to Zingerman’s for Two Events


askinosie-logoWe’re very happy to announce that founder and CEO of Askinosie Chocolate, Shawn Askinosie will visit two Zingerman’s businesses in mid-May to share his story and his chocolate!

Shawn Askinosie had a successful career as a criminal defense lawyer for nearly 20 years before he founded his Springfield, Missouri chocolate-making business. He was recently named by O, The Oprah Magazine as “One of 15 Guys Who Are Saving the World.” They said,

“Why we’re fans: The philanthropically-minded chocolate entrepreneur aims to get students thinking about business ethics in a way that could have ripple effects for generations.”

Askinosie Chocolate is a small-batch award-winning chocolate manufacturer with 15 full-time employees. Askinosie sources 100% of their beans directly from the farmers, and Shawn travels to regions of Ecuador, Honduras, the Philippines, and Tanzania to work directly with the farmers. This allows the chocolate to be traced to the source and labeled Authentic Single Origin Chocolate. It also enables Askinosie Chocolate to profit share with the farmers, giving them a Stake In the Outcome™. The Askinosie Chocolate mission is to serve their farmers, their neighborhood, their customers and each other; sharing the Askinosie Chocolate Experience by leaving the world a better place than they found it.

ZingTrain Speaker Series

On Wednesday, May 14, 7am, Shawn will take the reins at the ZingTrain Speaker Series to tell you his story, the story of how a criminal defense attorney became a chocolate maker. The story of how his business, Askinosie Chocolate, wins more awards for its chocolate than we can keep track of. The story of how his small 15-person business makes a huge positive impact on all it comes in contact with the world over. The story of how you can go about creating meaningful work, creating a business with a vocation.


Students and non-profit organizations will get a 50% discount for this event!

Tasting at Zingerman’s Deli

On Thursday, May 15, 630pm, Shawn will share his story at Zingerman’s Events on 4th, and lead us in a tasting of a selection of his amazing bean-to-bar chocolates. This event sells out fast so get your tickets today!


Bonus! If you register for both events, you’ll get three Askinosie Single Origin bars as our way of saying thanks!


Creating a Business Built On Purpose

Vic Strecher

Dr. Strecher has been a Professor in the UM School of Public Health since 1995. He founded the Center for Health Communications Research and has been leading investigator on over $45 million in grant-funded studies. With the University, Dr. Strecher founded HealthMedia Inc. in 1998, an Ann Arbor-based company that develops and disseminates award-winning tailored health interventions to millions of users. In 2008 HealthMedia Inc. was purchased by Johnson & Johnson. Currently, as Director for Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship, Dr. Strecher is helping the University of Michigan disseminate research to the real world, improving the public’s health nationally and globally.

ZingTrain Speaker Series 2014

The ZingTrain Speaker Series is a suite of thought-provoking presentations featuring experts sharing their wisdom on various aspects of the business world.

Dr. Vic Strecher is our next guest this Wednesday, February 19, 730am – 930am. 


Vic Strecher could talk to you eloquently and cogently about public health, adventures, the life of cows and dogs in India, dung beetles, modern neuroscience and ancient philosophy, entrepreneurship, disease prevention, innovation …. and if that’s not reason enough to come and listen to Dr. Strecher talk then perhaps this is. Vic Strecher recently emerged from a life experience that made him question his ultimate purpose and being the kind of person he is, he distilled his learnings from the journey into a book On Purpose: Lessons in Life and Health From the Frog, The Dung Beetle, and Julia. The book is a self-help guide, college lecture, confessional, and time-travel adventure all rolled into one. On Purpose uses a beautiful, fantasy-fueled, graphic novel format to tell a story of self-discovery and personal growth you’ll never forget.

Please join us!


Play it again and again and again and again…

So what did we decide?

If you want to take the same seminar a second time (or third or fourth or fifth time)

It’s half off!

That’s 50%

Email us  (zingtrainatzingermansdotcom)   to register!

PSST… Do you want to know a secret?

The current issue of the Zingerman’s print newsletter features a ZingTrain special – half off any one of our Training DVD’s!


Use the discount code ZINGNEWS.

These seminars are HOT!

The last two, perhaps even three, sessions of Bottom Line Training, Leading with Zing! and The Art of Giving Great Service were very sold out!

If you were planning on attending any of those seminars any time soon, now might just be a really great time to sign up for the upcoming sessions!

Bottom Line Training on April 28-29, 2014

Leading with Zing! on May 5-6, 2014

The Art of Giving Great Service on June 2-3, 2014

Want to help us design our seminar schedule for August 2014-15?

We’d be so grateful if you took this very, very quick SURVEY.

The other day a few of us were in deep discussion at the ZingTrain offices. It was a topic we’d all discussed before and the conversation was more of a memory dredge than content – because for once (opinionated bunch that we are) we were all in agreement about the content!

The content we were discussing was creating a price incentive for someone to attend the same seminar twice and though there were some differences of opinion on what that incentive should be, we were all in agreement that attending a seminar more than once is a great idea and that we should offer whatever price incentive we can to encourage it.

It occurred to me as I participated in the conversation that we’d never formally articulated why we were all so certain that it was a great idea to attend the same seminar twice (or four times!) and that sharing our reasons could be an even greater incentive than a price break – especially in a world where time is sometimes more scarce than money!

So here goes!

  1. We’re ready to hear different things at different times.

    There is much science and neuroscience and cognitive big-wordy stuff behind this observation but I believe we all know it to be true experientially. Ever read a book or watched the same movie twice?
    When it comes to training, the first time you encounter an idea, you might be listening through the filters of “Can I apply this in my world?” or perhaps you’re trying to apply this new information to experiences you’ve already had. Or if you’re like me, and a little shy, the first time you’re in a room you’ve never been in before with a bunch of people you’ve never met before, everything you hear and say has a little nervous buzz around it.

    On the other hand, if you encounter the concept again after you’ve had a chance to try it on for size or the opportunity to share it with or teach it to others, you listen in a different way and hear things you hadn’t quite heard the first time around.

    At Zingerman’s we speak of the four levels of learning. Listening. Reflecting. Assimilating & Acting. Teaching. One of the first steps of getting trained to teach a class at Zingerman’s is to attend the class again because you listen differently when you listen in order to be able to teach. In fact, I believe that we listen in different ways at each and every one of those stages of learning [a topic ripe for a longer conversation and perhaps the subject of a future newsletter!] but the point here is that it’s well worth our time to attend the same training multiple times as we move through the different levels of learning.

  2. We hear different things amongst different cohorts.
    ZingTrain seminar attendees come from all walks of life, every size of business you can think of and pretty much every level of the organization. We frequently hear this feedback from our seminar attendees : “It was so reassuring to find that other successful and driven businesses/business owners/managers/trainers/(insert organizational group of your choice here) face the same challenges I do!” It is indeed.

    As you might imagine, in that setting, infused with the excitement of having found peers, one might listen to the content and the reactions of the other seminar attendees with a particular filter. But if you were to attend the same seminar with your boss and a very clear (and hopefully inspiring!) mandate on what to bring back to the business from the seminar, you’d listen differently. Or if you were the boss and you were coming with five of your staff, you might listen differently. I could continue with the examples, but I think you’re seeing the point, yes?

Those are two broad categories and I believe they cover a pretty nuanced range of situations in which we might hear the same information differently. I’m certain there are more and I’m certain that you’d have some excellent suggestions which I would love to hear. But while we all put our heads together to compile a more exhaustive list, I’d like to share a different way to think about the same idea – this idea of the factors that affect what we “hear” in training and what we do with our training. At Zingerman’s, the leader’s role in training is to provide the staff with Context, Reinforcement, Use [CRU].

  • Context: This refers to the context we use to frame the information we are hearing. Do you have a vision for your business and is the seminar one of the resources that is going to help you get there? Did your leadership send you to the seminar with the mandate that you are to implement a way to measure customer service within 3 months of attending the seminar? Are you coming back to the seminar to feel inspired and re-invigorated?
  • Reinforcement: This particular aspect makes more sense when you’re the Leader providing positive reinforcement for your staff members after they’ve completed the training. And yet, if you’re the business owner attending the seminar, it couldn’t really hurt to give yourself a little positive reinforcement about your decision to come! You can find that amongst like-minded peers or in your journals or just call us!
  • Use: As you might imagine, Use literally refers to using the information you encounter in training. We think this is a critical step, and in fact, we recommend that people use what they learn in training within 48 hours of learning it because otherwise – poof!

Ultimately, if the Context or Reinforcement or Use changes, the listening and learning change and in our experience, become deeper and richer and more nuanced.

As you read this, please know that the point of this edition of OnTrack isn’t just to have you come back for a ZingTrain seminar you’ve already taken (although we would be so incredibly happy if you did) – the point is to also frame a different way of thinking of training and how you can effectively use (re)training in your organization. Whether it’s because it’s been a tough winter and everyone is just ready for a little inspiration or because a particular systemic change you were trying to implement didn’t stick or you want to give a boost to a particular systemic change that you really, really want to stick, it’s worth considering using your existing training resources in a different context.

All of which makes for a nice conversation but perhaps it still feels a little theoretical at this point? So here’s a little check-list of real life situations that might help bring home what I’m really trying to say here.

I would attend the same training twice because:

  • I want to reward the team for a great season.
  • I want to start teaching this topic.
  • I’ve become competent at this but now I want to be a ninja!
  • I want to get re-inspired.
  • I want the team to get re-inspired.
  • I hit a roadblock.
  • I want to infuse new energy into an old system.
  • I want to take implementation to the next level.
  • I want to “shepherd” new staff into our organization by attending training with them.
  • I miss ZingTrain and the seminar lunches!

Which one resonates with you? What would you add to the checklist? I would attend the same training twice because… I can’t wait to hear from you!


The Vortex & The Snowstorm

RNTL-Snowglobe-Cover.2And what they taught us about our business and ourselves!

Who writes about the weather in January? It’s winter. White stuff falls from the sky and it’s uncomfortably cold. What’s to write about?

And then we had a crazy big snowfall. Right on its heels came this Polar Vortex phenomenon (what?). And pretty soon, and rightly so, the weather was all we were talking about.

And since I usually write about what’s on my mind in these newsletters, that’s what I decided to do. I went around Zingerman’s and asked people from various businesses and levels of the organization.

Ari Weinzweig
Co-Founder, Zingerman’s


To state the obvious, I learned that when things like that happen, it’s really hard to function. And that people who are living in hardship or on the edge have a much harder time. And if those people are trying to function in settings where they don’t have a lot of empathy and support, it becomes even more challenging.

In terms of whether I learned something about myself, not surprisingly I thought about your question in terms of managing one’s self. Like just about everyone else in the world, I have plenty of challenges that I deal with on a day to day basis and a new challenge like that can add disproportionate amounts of stress to the mix. If you’re doing the work of managing yourself on a day to day basis, and surrounding yourself with the right people in a supportive environment, then the new stress becomes somewhat easier to handle. It’s like if you get sick – which is never a good thing – but if you’re already in great shape because you exercise and eat right then the toll the illness takes on your body is easier to get through.

Oh, and I have new respect for people from Alberta.

Amy Emberling
Managing Partner, Zingerman’s Bakehouse


I learned that we have a really strong work ethic at the Bakehouse. There was no question that the work was going to go on. And despite the weather and the roads, people made it in to work. Even the late shifts. And the very early shifts. One of our night shift people left work at 1 am and didn’t get home until 7:30 am.

We had Bakehouse deliveries round the clock despite the weather. My first thought in the morning was – Is everyone okay? The first thing I did was check my phone.

At a personal level, and as a partner at the Bakehouse, the experience led me to ask myself – is that perspective (the work must go on) really the best? Are those our values? Do I really want to put the Bakehouse employees in danger?

Coming out of it, I have a huge feeling of gratitude that all of the people that work at the Bakehouse are safe. And I want to think about what we will do as a business if we face something like that in the future? It’s a large discussion but we can at least set up a system of people helping each other – giving someone a ride if they are uncomfortable driving in this weather, for example.

Anya [Boss o' the Baristas]
& Allen [Managing Partner]
Zingerman’s Coffee Company


Anya: The intense snow and cold brought us problems that we’ve never encountered before and it was surprising how smoothly, creatively and cheaply we were able to fix things. The staff worked together, considering difficulties that would occur and pre-emptively preparing for them. This included trading shifts for people who lived further away so that they would not have to travel on unsafe roads and coming up with delivery plans if trucks couldnt fit into our loading dock. No one panicked and when trouble arose, we just made it work.

Allen: We didn’t really think twice (or even once for that matter) about whether we were going to be open or not. And it was a good thing too because I believe we provided a third place for some people that really needed one. We had some customers who camped out at the Coffee Shop all day. We learned some interesting mechanical things – s&$% behaves a lot different at those temperatures – like truck batteries and HVAC. Also, it presented us with some great opportunities – we got some languishing projects done and took some great Facebook photos!

ZingTrain Staff

I learned that:

  • I need to be more flexible. I’m a planner and crazy situations like that make all your plans somewhat pointless and that’s frustrating but in the end it all works out anyway.
  • Our clients are very dedicated. If they came in from Cleveland during a snowstorm for their ZingTrain session, how could I not make it from across town? I also appreciated how much everyone really pitches in and helps each other out at times like these. We just got together and made it all work and I really appreciate being part of an organization like that.
  • The systems we put in place are for a reason and when we encounter a challenging circumstance like the vortex, the reasoning behind our systems become clear to me.
  • We don’t do a lot of the “Not my problem” or “Not my job”. We all help each other out!

EJ Olsen
Zingerman’s Marketing

Despite being Great Lakes born and bred and with deep family roots Up North and in Canada, I am less and less tolerant of sustained bouts of “real” winter as the years pass. I find myself daydreaming of beaches and clear, blue water. Or, heck, even rainy and mid-40′s would be better than the Antarctic Hammer we endured this week. I think I’m still numb…

Mike White, Retail Manager
Zingerman’s Delicatessen


This weather has brought our typical, slow season to a very dramatic start. Plenty of things ran through my head, so-slow-we-should-send-everyone-home-but-we-need-people-to-shovel, or we-can’t-give-great-service-if-they’re-are-no-guests-to-serve, or if-every-guest-buys-a-wheel-of-parmigiano-we-still-won’t-make-plan. But that’s why I mentioned patience earlier. It could be easy to get caught up in those sort of reactions if it weren’t for patience, if it weren’t for that moment: In the midst of snow covered darkness a group of guests come in from the cold. Their first, hopeful words: are you open? A bread salesman: yes. They say, warmly: thank you.

In moments like this it’s easy to show gratitude, to know and share that feeling with our guests. When the storm stripped away what we hold so dearly, our sales and our 3-steps and our interest in food being overcome by our interest in warmth, we are left with the core of our interactions. And there, right there all along, is that gratitude.

When we are patient we will know when to act, and more importantly, why to act. In that way, I’d like to keep those moments from the storm alive throughout the slow season. And that in every interaction we know our gratitude is honest.


High Chair Hijinks and Forecasting Forays


On Track November 2013

I have a nine month old son. He has a high chair. Nothing fancy. A chair. A food tray/table. Two restraining straps – one for his lap, one for his shoulders. The first few times I put him in the chair, I ignored the straps with a sigh about the litigious world we live in. Then one day I walked into the kitchen where I had left him for less than a minute to find him sitting on the food tray, facing the back of the chair with a big grin on his face. Look what I can do, Mama. I was terrified and secretly proud of his creativity. My little Houdini. He’s been diligently strapped in ever since. This weekend, I had friends visiting and wanted to show off his escape artist skills. I put him in the chair. No straps. All of us watching expectantly. Nothing. It wasn’t until I stood behind him and lured him with his favorite toy that he realized he was unrestrained and got around to demonstrating his skills. In a mere 10 days of being strapped in, he had stopped trying to escape.


Well, the whole episode had me thinking about leadership, creativity, rules and restraints, particularly in the context of an organization going Open Book. Not that I think leadership is like parenting at all, even though you may find yourself feeling like a parent sometimes. It’s more that up until the moment your organization decides to go Open Book, the covert or overt message that the employees have been getting through their entire careers, whether at your business or another, is this : It’s not their job to think like an owner. And then one day your business decides to go Open Book and suddenly it is their job to think like an owner. As a leader in your organization, it is important for you to know that it’s going to take some coaxing, some coaching, some teaching and a little rewarding to help your employees break the habit of not being expected to think or act like an owner.

It’s hard work – on both sides, the leaders and the staff. And it takes patience. A lot of patience. When I was a manager at Zingerman’s Deli and had just started a huddle, I mapped out what I saw as the developmental stages of our huddle. As the leader of the huddle, having the stages helped me with the patience bit – it was a way to mark our progress on the way to becoming a successful huddle.


Here are the stages I came up with. As you read through them, I’d love to hear  (gauriatzingermansdotcom?subject=Our%20huddle)   what stages you’ve seen in your huddle or if any of these stages particularly resonate with you:

Stage 1.
Line owners overcome their fear and make a forecast, any forecast.
If you think about it from a line owners point of view, and keep in mind that they’ve been discouraged from thinking like an owner for years, you’ll realize that making a forecast at all is a pretty big step. How on earth am I supposed to know how many dollars worth of bread we’re going to sell next week? To sit in the presence of their team and have the courage to forecast at all is a great, great beginning. In the first few huddles, as a leader, it’s your role to gently coax line owners into making forecasts, to create a safe environment and to reinforce the idea that it’s not about being right, it’s about participating. And learning together.

Stage 2.
Line owners make forecasts using historical data, experience and current events.
The next stage is where the line owner gets into making the forecasts and starts looking for data to support the number. What did we do this week, last year? Was there a football game on that Saturday? What was the weather like? Have we raised our prices since then? This is progress!

Stage 3.
Line owners answer your questions about their forecasts (you being the leader).
This is more of a stage for the huddle leader than the line owners. When you realize that some line owners have started doing their homework before coming to the huddle, start asking leading questions in the huddle. Why did you make the forecast you did? What’s going on in the city this week? It’s a way of encouraging line owners to really think through and stand behind their forecasts and to set an example for other line owners who are stuck in Stages 1 and 2.

Stage 4.
Line owners ask and answer questions about their own and each other’s forecasts.
When just about every line owner gets to the point where they’re thinking about and getting data to support their forecasts before they come to the huddle, you’re at stage 4. At this point, they’ll be asking each other questions. And giving each other ideas and suggestions. They’re discovering that becoming a competent line owner is contagious!

forecasting-expertStage 5.
Line owners realize that they can affect the forecast and are responsible for achieving it.
For me, this was the most exhilarating stage. It’s when line owners realize it’s not just about historical data and events and weather and schedules – they can affect the forecast. They can rally the team to push a particular product. Change retail displays. Make extra signage. Create a special promotion. The leaders role at this stage is to help with the tie out (are we ordering more bread if you’re forecasting that we’re going to sell more? does the increased forecast in dollars tie out with the forecasted increase in loaves sold?) and to follow up during the week and help the line owners execute the ideas they came up with during the huddle.

Stage 6.
Everyone participates in the forecasting work and helps the line owners achieve the planned targets.
The huddle, at this stage, takes on a life of its own. And the business is truly being run in the huddle. The leader’s role at this point primarily becomes sharing information and perspective that the front line staff may not have and helping to keep the huddle focused on the ultimate goal of the year end targets.

There’s the six stages, then. As I review them and reminisce about those heady times when we started a Bread huddle at the Deli, I have a word of caution for you. The work is never really done. The stages are not really linear. The line owners in the huddle don’t actually move in tandem – even as one line owner is reaching Stage 6, another line is transitioning to a new owner who is barely at Stage 1.


Get $250 off all ZingTrain 2-day seminars! Register using the discount code GUSTAV (in honor of one of Ari’s favorite Anarchists)
Buy now. Pick later. 

Not sure which seminars to take yet but don’t want to miss out on GUSTAV? Purchase an Open Seminar Seat.

Discount code valid from now until December 31st, 2013.


Stick with it. Create markers for your progress. And remember, it’s going to take some coaxing, some coaching, some teaching and a little rewarding to help the line owners break through their habitual restraints.

Stick with it. And even though the team won’t move in lock step when you first start huddling, the overall progress of the group as a whole will be palpable, and inspiring!

Stick with it. And soon the group will be coming up with and executing ideas that blow your mind and take your business to a whole new level. Within a few minutes of realizing he was restraint-free, my son was trying to step up and stand on the food tray! What will your team do?

- Gauri Thergaonkar,
Community Builder at ZingTrain


The 5 W’s

ZT On Track 0913


On Track September 2013

Zingerman’s is an Open Book business.
I love working in an Open Book business. I believe that it is a way of operating that respects and harnesses the true potential of every single employee in the business. I also believe that although it can be a more challenging way to operate, the rewards – both philosophically and to the business’ bottom lines – are well worth the effort.

The core of Open Book is education and execution.

Educate each and every person in the business about the key business metrics – financial or otherwise – and review the status of the metrics in an accessible manner on a regular basis. Here at Zingerman’s, we call that keeping score. The metrics are displayed on a whiteboard, called the Department Operating Report (DOR). Each metric is “owned” by an employee who is responsible for that particular metric meeting its goal. Each DOR line owner reports on their metric in our weekly staff meetings called Huddles. They’re fun, fiesty meetings and the work of running the business gets done in those huddles.

All of which is splendid but would not lead to much if the business did not enable each employee to make and, more significantly, execute decisions about the metrics they own. Enabling, a very positive word in this context, is about giving employees decision making power and the resources they need to execute their decisions. But it is also about much more than resources and decision making power. It is about trusting each employee to (at least want to) make the decision that’s best for the business and coaching them in a constructive manner when they make mistakes – which they will. At Zingerman’s, we don’t just enable each employee to impact the metric they “own”, we expect them to.

If education and execution are the core of Open Book philosophy, choosing the right metrics and defining them clearly are what its success hinges on. And that is what I really want to talk about in this edition of OnTrack : how to go about defining your metrics clearly.

At Zingerman’s we have three bottom lines - great food, great service and great finance, and that’s what our metrics are based on. What metrics do you use to define the success of your business?

Years ago, when we started practicing Open Book, we realized the efficacy of our huddles could be vastly improved if we made sure that the metrics we had chosen were clearly defined. Why, you ask? Here’s a list of reasons :

  • It’s efficient – if you aren’t discussing what the metric actually means every week, you have more time to discuss how to improve it!
  • A clear definition provides an outline for the Line Owner’s report in the huddle each week.
  • It is a crucial part of the education piece I spoke of earlier
  • It creates an archive of consistent data that can be used to come up with business plans and targets in the future.
The above is by no means an exhaustive list. There are probably more reasons and if you think of one, please send it my way and I’ll create a list of Compelling Reasons to Clearly Define Your Metrics (!) and share them all with you.
It will come as no surprise to some of you that having identified the need to clearly define the metrics, we created a “recipe” for it! Meet  the 5W’s.
  1. What is the metric?
  2. Who owns it?
  3. What is the calculation?
  4. Where does the information come from?
  5. Why is it important?
They’re pretty self explanatory and I’ve found that they have that Belated Glimpse of the Obvious power – a much loved phrase here at ZingTrain. Having read through the list, you’re probably thinking – Of course! How else could you define something clearly? When that happens, we usually tell ourselves that we’ve hit on something good!

Did we?

- Gauri