Sunset Foods The Specialty Store
There are five different Sunset Food specialty stores throughout the northern part of Chicagoland and I’ve visited all stores except for the new store in Long Grove, IL. Sunset is synonymous with customer service and fresh foods and I’m happy to report I’ve never had a negative experience at Sunset. Maybe a few situations where the service was “just average” but never a bad experience. Sometimes, first time visitors to this specialty grocer remark about their service to customers – it can be a little unnerving, especially if your grocer focuses much less on service. Sunset is located in Highland Park, Lake Forest, Libertyville, Long Grove and Northbrook.
At the Libertyville Sunset, one of the first areas you’ll see once inside is the bakery and deli. Some grocery stores have eliminated the deli numbering (or queue) system but Sunset still operates this system to ensure customers are served in the correct order. The deli variety is impressive – includes meats, cheese, chicken, seafood and pasta dishes. Based on the size of the Libertyville store, their deli is unusually large and I’m sure it’s one of the main profit areas for Sunset. One caveat, even though there are some sale items, many deli items are pricey so families that have an appetite for pre-made dishes could find their grocery bill soar quickly.
There’s the drive-up service available – you briefly park your car and they’ll load your groceries. As you leave, you’re given a number to display in your car window so there are no surprises when you get home. This service is definitely old school and I certainly remember this service being more common years ago.
One will find a good selection of organic produce there – they sold organic produce many years before Whole Foods began selling organic produce in the Chicago grocery market. Even though Sunset’s non-organic produce is about 10-20% more than other grocers, the quality is consistently above average and tasty. In my opinion, the adage You get what you pay for would certainly apply to their produce department.
They weigh your fruit and veggies in the produce area to improve the checkout experience. You spend a little more time in the produce department to save time during checkout. I’m not sure if this improves the customer experience – maybe six of one and a half dozen of another?
If you’re flexible at Sunset and you’re not brand loyal, you can save 20 to 50% on most goods as they always have sale items in many different, food categories. It may not be your brand of milk, OJ or snack food but chances are, they’ll have many of these items on sale at a given time. In addition, if you’re willing to shop their store brand Centrella, you can save a significant amount over some of the more popular (and more expensive) name brands.
An associate will efficiently move your groceries from your cart to the checkout counter. Typically, I have less than 20 items so it’s not a big deal but they insist this is part of their customer focus so I let them take over.
They do have a small beer and wine section, which is the last section in the Libertyville store before checkout. Based on the size of this store, the wine and liquor department provides a nice selection of alcohol beverages. You can frequently find good deals on domestic and imported beer and wine, especially if you’re willing to be flexible and maybe try new or existing products that are on sale.
I’ve spoken to some former employees who worked at the Libertyville Sunset Foods during high school and college and they say the pay is average with a very serious work environment – it’s a no-nonsense type of work setting focusing on customers.
Paper or plastic? I hate to say, but it’s still nice when the checker asks me if I want paper or plastic. Even though this used to be commonplace among many grocers, being asked today is the exception rather than to the rule.
If you’re looking for a grocery store with a good selection and a conscientious staff, Sunset might fit the bill. Many regulars like their quality meat, seafood, deli and produce. You generally pay more for these goods but for many, quality trumps price.
If you’re going to shop primarily at Sunset Foods but price is just as important as quality, you may want to visit their website and peruse the sale flyer and map out your trip to help reduce your cost. Again, to save money at Sunset, don’t be too brand focused and look for items that have a significant price reduction. Another approach mentioned earlier is to choose as many items that carry the Centrella brand. That’s guaranteed to provide noticeable savings.
For some consumers, they use Sunset Foods as a supplement to a larger grocer – visiting this specialty store once a week or two and grabbing a few items to hold them over. For many of these consumers, quality doesn’t trump price and price doesn’t trump price – it’s all about value – getting a good product at a competitive price.