Roundy's & Mariano's Fresh Market

There is no doubt about it - the company as a whole has performed much better because of Topgrading, all the way down to the stocker and cashier level. When people rave on social media about how positive and energized the whole store is, record sales no longer surprise us!

- Bob Mariano, CEO, Mariano’s

In 2019, Bob Mariano and his team of A Players launched a new grocery chain, Dom’s Market & Kitchen, with the first store in the Lincoln Park area of Chicago.


This is a unique case study following an A team which remained mostly intact through half a dozen private equity and corporate buyouts over a period of four decades. The study focuses on a time when private equity-owned Roundy’s, with three divisions, created Mariano’s, a Chicago division that became the best-of-class grocer.

Roundy’s was a privately held grocery chain of 160 stores, operating under five banners in Wisconsin, Illinois, and Minnesota. The due diligence of the private equity company that owned Roundy's showed mediocre performance throughout the company, and the solution was to start by replacing the entire executive team. The company hired Bob Mariano, who was involved with Topgrading when he was SVP with Dominick’s.

Mariano's success with Roundy’s, including Topgrading the company, led to the PE firm launching Mariano’s Fresh Markets as a concept store to be created and run by Mariano. The start-up division achieved unprecedented praise from the media, including social media, and has achieved unprecedented business results, in part because of the Topgrading innovations.

No. of Employees: 18,000
Industry: Grocery Chain


  • Executive team improved to 100% A Players
  • Successful company turnaround
  • Successful launch of new division attributed to unprecedented customer service
  • Leading edge, abbreviated Topgrading methods used for entry-level positions

Turning Around Roundy's

Roundy’s implemented the full Topgrading methodology throughout all levels of the company. Bob Mariano’s first step at Roundy’s was to Topgrade the executive ranks, and he recruited A Players he had worked closely with in the past to replace Roundy’s executives. It is to his credit that he has been so successful recruiting, as many new executives, managers, and even hourly employees came to Roundy’s because they had so much respect for Mariano.

Topgrading was initiated at the company through two-day training workshops for corporate managers and then store managers. Shorter workshops were conducted for department managers within the stores.

After the implementation, the executive team members hired and promoted at Roundy’s were 100% A Players. Hiring and promoting of store managers improved from 26% to 84% A Players, and the company achieved a dramatic turnaround.

man and cashier at checkout in grocery store

Launching Mariano's

With the success at Roundy’s, the PE firm decided to launch a new Chicago-area store concept, Mariano’s Fresh Markets, run by Bob Mariano and his team of executives. Mariano’s hired all employees using Topgrading, including entry level cashiers and stockers. This was the first retail company to use Topgrading to hire and promote 100% of store employees, and it worked. Highlighting A Players at entry levels earned Mariano’s high praise from customers and media, and the word-of-mouth advertising boosted sales.

When I visited a store while it was prepping to open, Bob Mariano met with all 500 employees. He told them they were hired because they were the top 10% of candidates, and he challenged them to provide the very best customer service in the Chicago area. Young and older new employees leaned forward and took notes, and all the groups gave Bob a standing ovation.

– Chris Mursau, President, Topgrading

Topgrading Results

At Mariano’s, 90% of Store Managers hired turned out to be A Players. Customer service ratings started high at 83% positive and only improved from there, to 95% at the time of this case study. This “start-up” division exceeded all of its financial goals.

In Their Own Words

"Topgrading all store jobs resulted in the culture becoming one of high performance, excitement, enthusiasm, and passionate customer service. Our customers tell us daily how much they love our wonderful stores and amazing employees, and word of mouth is creating huge revenues."

- Carmel Pender, VP Service Operations

"When I took over as VP Store Operations, I had tons of data, but the information was confusing and I could not pin down who were A or C Players in the stores. Chris Mursau created detailed, precise Job Scorecards for the store manager and department manager jobs, and it clarified exactly what goals were to be achieved for someone to perform at the A Player level. It became clear to me and all the managers in the store if their performance was that expected of an A, B, or C Player."

- John Doyle, VP Store Operations

Hiring at the Entry Level

At Roundy's and Mariano's, Topgrading methods are simplified for Store Managers and departmental managers, and made even simpler for entry employees such as Stocker and Cashier. For Entry Level Employees:

  • The Topgrading Career History Form covers education but not full career history – just the most recent 8 years if applicable.
  • The Store Operations Manager (SOM), trained in a workshop, conducts the Topgrading Interview without a tandem partner.
  • Only two reference calls are made. The candidate gets permission from two recent managers, and gives their phone numbers and availability to the SOM, who typically conducts a 5- to 10-minute reference call.

Talk to an expert to see how Topgrading can help your organization.


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