The Changing Face of Waitrose Branch Operations

Sixty years ago the country was on the eve of automation . Waitrose operated from a warehouse at Greenford where distribution involved delivering groceries on flat bed trollies moved by a pogo stick from the vehicle to a point where the items could be unloaded onto a conveyor to take them to the warehouse. Only later were cages used which could be moved directly by lifts. Similarly sides of meat and bacon had to be hung on rails in the unloading bay and transferred by lift to preparation areas in the warehouse. In the Seventies a new branch required 100% non selling space to support the same selling area. Considerable space was required in the warehouse for meat and provisions preparation and packing. A new branch would have a preparation room 10ft x 30ft with three chopping blocks, three packing stations and a conveyor system to the weighing and pricing point. The provisions department would also have similar facilities for the boning and packing of bacon, both with access to chillers ,also accessible from the warehouse. Frozen foods had a separate freezer, and this together with the need for a warehouse holding a week and a half’s stock , where a similar conveyor system was also  required from the warehouse racking to price mark everything, plus a two storey unloading bay, was also required. A far cry from today when everything arrives with a barcode, and all meat and provisions are prepacked.

The office suite contained a branch managers office, a cash office with safe, a section managers office to complete the orders , a medical room and lastly a dining room with a rest area and provision for smoking. A standard kitchen was installed in every branch to provide the full catering menu, no vending machines here.

These parameters began to change as distribution became more automated, and stock levels decreased, which in turn resulted in lower build costs as non selling decreased.

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