Tony Orlando

Owner, Tony O's Supermarket and Catering

Born and raised in Ashtabula, Ohio, Tony Orlando has 50 years in the food business, having started at four years of age in 1961.

Tony purchased his store in May of 1999 from his father. Through the years, he has acquired extensive knowledge of meat and deli departments. He has consulted with other independents to help their businesses grow.

Tony has served on many Midwest beef councils and also was on the Young Executives Council for the NGA, of which he is a charter member.

Tony graduated from Ohio State University in 1978 with a Bachelors in Business Administration. He is married to wife Maria and has two sons, Michael (19) and Stephen (16). Tony is also the President of the Autistic Children’s Foundation. He loves golfing, casinos and talking shop at NGA.

  • Posted on: 03/24/2017

    Will struggling retailers find new lives as pure play e-tailers?

    Excellent point Ian. I myself am at a crossroads, as our community is very poor and the Super Walmart and Aldi pretty much own the entire market as far as sales go, having shuttered six supermarkets in the last 10 years. Even though I have the homemade goodies, great service and great prices, it comes down to perception of value. Independents, along with many types of smaller retailers, are struggling horribly. The downtown is pretty much gone except for a few oddball places and a ton of empty buildings. We have a ton of boarded up places and strip plazas everywhere. Our mall is 20 percent occupied with only J.C. Penney left and a Pretzel Time store as the only food court place left open. Not much gets discussed here about the rural areas, which actually are everywhere across the country with the same story, and it saddens me to see this in my travels. I understand change, and all the talk about e-commerce and how Amazon is king, but reading your comment was refreshing as it hits home very hard for many of us in these communities. The disappearance of physical stores is not good for the sense of belonging to a community, where Norman Rockwell loved to portray us in his paintings. Yeah, I'm babbling here, but as much experience and creativity I bring to my store it may not be enough to stick around in the future, as profit dollars shrink to all-time lows. Thanks for writing this, as I know the effect of what is happening to our communities and I will try to stay relevant. Have a great weekend everyone.
  • Posted on: 03/22/2017

    Will tech innovations change foodservice?

    For me, with an all-scratch deli/catering service, I am looking for procuring top-notch produce preparation services that saves me time and money. I am trying to add fresh pepper strips and already just found some nice quality celery pieces that are top-quality. The broccoli crowns, shredded cabbage and carrots are a part of what we use, which helps a lot. We still do onions and redskin potatoes as this is impossible to find, as they wilt pretty fast so we will continue to do our own. All restaurants have different needs, but for me, we use our associates to make the homemade foods, and that will continue as it is a huge advantage for us to do so. Also robots can't sell or engage in the art of sampling and getting the extra sale, so the human factor will always win out in that regard.
  • Posted on: 03/22/2017

    What do know-it-all shoppers want?

    In my business the know-it-all shoppers want to get in and out quickly with a smiling face in all departments. They expect to be greeted at the checkout and want a smooth process without any angst or waiting in line. Both know-it-all shoppers and the rest of my shoppers also need information on cooking tips, catering for parties, wine selection and gluten/sugar free products. And that -- my friends -- is where the real money is. I have trained my associates to engage with our customers and help solve their concerns, and for the most part it goes well. I spend as much time as I can talking with our customers and provide them with information that the big box stores don't, and it keeps them coming back.Bottom line: We have well-trained, friendly associates that can properly help answer questions from our customers, and if they need more information I will make sure they get the right answers quickly; through email or a personal call if I'm out of the store. It can make or break you, how you treat these situations.
  • Posted on: 03/21/2017

    Why is the U.S. so bad at airport retailing?

    I don't fit the typical shopper outside the airport. What I and many others want is a place where I can sit comfortably, charge my phone or iPad, and actually find something healthy to eat, which is difficult. I don't need a 95 dollar golf shirt I can buy for $25 at Macy's, and most of the other stores are a waste of my time. Better, healthier food options would be amazing, but I won't hold my breath.
  • Posted on: 03/20/2017

    Will the soy-in-chicken report sink Subway?

    This could be a major problem if the report is true. Subway has a ton of franchisees who are wondering what the truth is. For the price they get for subs, I hope for their sake that these allegations are false, as it could hurt sales and mean a loss of credibility. Chick-fil-A and others could benefit from this depending on the outcome. The public has little patience for these type of incidents. Hopefully it will be over quick.
  • Posted on: 03/16/2017

    How will AmazonFresh Pickup stores affect the grocery business?

    I'm getting in to this a little late, but here is my take on this. Amazon Fresh can and will do well in affluent areas and with time-starved city dwellers. I spent a few hours going through Amazon Fresh and unless you have tons of money to spare, the prices are outrageous. Amazon can charge whatever they want, but 30 to 40 dollars per pound for strips or rib eyes and 45 to 50 dollars per pound for filets seems like a bit over the top. This goes on and on, and "free delivery" is no problem when you can charge twice or more for the same product you can buy inside a supermarket. Oreos and snacks on the dry side are pretty reasonable, but the perishables simply aren't even close to being competitive, and that is my take on this. Amazon can charge whatever they want, but again, it is for a limited audience and they know it, so good for them.
  • Posted on: 03/14/2017

    Will being more like Home Depot work for J.C. Penney?

    J.C. Penney is looking for something to grow sales and I believe it could happen if and only if they can follow through on the service after the sale. They must provide top-notch delivery and installation or it will not work. Plus they must aggressively price the product, as online appliance giants are taking more sales every year. Throughout retail everyone is trying to find a profitable niche that will draw people into their stores, and we'll see how this goes. I'm not sold on this but, again, if the service and sales employees are outstanding then it could be a gold mine, as great service always wins out if the price is comparable.
  • Posted on: 03/09/2017

    Are free returns a good way to drive online sales?

    Another free option that costs retailers big bucks. Of course customers want free returns, and they expect it. They also want free health care, free child care, free college tuition, free housing and everything else, so what else is new? The only way it can work is if the price of the goods have a built-in allowance for this, or it will be a money loser. The problem with building in the cost is that the consumer will shop around until they find the rock-bottom price on the item, along with free shipping and returns, and the retailer will still lose out on the deal. It is simply insane today with online shopping, and online retail isn't for the weak or underfunded businesses, as they will get destroyed by the big players. Lots of fun in retail today isn't it?
  • Posted on: 03/07/2017

    Will using Uber for home deliveries work for Kroger?

    Hi Ben. Believe me the rules have changed. I work for ChefKo Meats out of Cleveland, and we talked about this today. These new laws were passed about a year ago, and Kroger can do whatever they want, but playing with fire isn't something I would choose to do. We'll see how this goes, and I'm willing to bet more rules will be coming down the road, as Government loves piling on, because they can.
  • Posted on: 03/07/2017

    Will using Uber for home deliveries work for Kroger?

    I am trying to wrap my head around this third-party Uber deal. Correct me if I am wrong, but does Uber have a special refrigerated van with frozen and medium temperature storage? Probably not, and therein lies the problem for me. Staple goods from the center store I can understand, but delivering perishables with Uber is a big mistake. Laws have already been passed on the delivery of perishables from manufacturers all the way to the consumer's home, and it requires dual temperature zones for home delivery and special vans that meet these requirements or the potential for lawsuits is huge.I am a proponent of safe food delivery and, as a caterer, I must take special care of the food I serve off-premises. Kroger should not be doing this with any third party that does not meet the new standards, and as smart as Kroger is it amazes me that this program is moving forward. This will be closely scrutinized in the future, as there are a lot of companies trying to get into the grocery delivery business and it must be done right. This is why "free delivery" is impossible, as the cost to do this properly is going up. Let's get this right as an industry -- consumers deserve it.
  • Posted on: 02/27/2017

    Will irrational shipping prices doom brick and mortar stores?

    I have been saying this for years. Making shipping free for brick-and-mortar retailers is another losing proposition. Consumers demand in their minds that shipping must be free. They want free returns, and free coupons when something goes wrong, and the lowest price and on and on. This is impossible to do, but we as retailers are expected to do the impossible, and this scenario will only get worse and more retailers will perish. The giants will become super-mega giants. It saddens me to see how many very good retailers are being forced to lower their margins even further in order to exist, which eventually they can't.I have spoken to UPS about this subject at our local store and they explained to me how their customers are struggling with paying for the very expensive shipping at costs of two to three times that of the big stores, which is crazy. I do not have any solutions to this, as the e-commerce train is moving at speeds many of us can not keep up with. Delivering food, especially with perishables, is very expensive and unless you are in a high-income foodie town, you can not price your way to success. Either way, there will be a few BIG winners and many small business losers as we move forward.
  • Posted on: 02/23/2017

    What tech tools do independent grocers need to compete with e-tailers?

    Hi Craig,Chiming in a day late, and I was at this session at NGA. There is a huge amount of store sizes and levels of formats in our group, and I fall into the small single store with limited resources category. It hasn't stopped me from adapting to making my store different, and you must deal in reality not some high-tech fantasy world that the app folks want you to be in. In no way am I knocking the technology out there, but for me and many others it is best to look internally and work on creating the best customer experience for our customers walking into our stores. For the most part we are doing that, with more to come as learning never stops. I do not have the ability to do e-commerce, either direct or third party, as our rural poor area makes it very difficult to walk away with a profit. However, we have had e-mail blasts sent out since the '90s and have a very fresh and active social media presence via Facebook and our customers respond to it quite well. I just won the Progressive Grocer Best Deli/Prepared Foods Category this year, which is an honor, and it can be accomplished in small formats if your commitment to scratch-prepared foods is strong. My advice to independents is to start small and build up your social media presence, and if e-commerce fits the bill and it can be done profitably and efficiently, then by all means do it. If not then ramp up customer service and signature offerings and keep your center store prices sharp. Otherwise most will perish, as low prices are not going to go away anytime soon.
  • Posted on: 02/21/2017

    Third-party e-commerce fulfillers: Friend or foe to the grocers?

    Happy for them Ken, and I do not know their layout or population density, but for me and many independents that I speak to, it is logistically inside the store very difficult to pull off, with the old design layout and without a major investment to pursue this. I am a pretty practical business owner, and every store is different, so I wish them well, and hopefully it is profitable for them as well.
  • Posted on: 02/21/2017

    Will acquisition of a mom and pop shop pay off big for Kroger?

    Kroger is a very smart organization. They will do what is right and, if they are really smart, let it naturally expand without overkill. Duplicating success is doable, but it cannot be rushed or be on every corner or it will lose its uniqueness, and I believe that any new standalone stores will be placed in the right high-end areas and thrive rather than being just another cheese store in a suburban strip plaza.
  • Posted on: 02/21/2017

    Third-party e-commerce fulfillers: Friend or foe to the grocers?

    E-commerce simply will not work for many retailers without third-party help. I'm sure many who post here think otherwise, but the truth is that many stores are simply not set up to handle this enormous task without a huge investment in the infrastructure of home delivery. This is why they go with a third party rather than re-doing their entire store with added coolers, expensive vehicles and extra staff to deliver grocers to their customers. It really is that simple, and Amazon doesn't own grocery stores, which gives them an advantage that simply cannot be overcome with the existing facilities that many stores have.I could never do it, except for catering drop offs and large meat packages (as they remain quite profitable) rather than cookies, canned goods and paper products. The store of the future is not exclusive to Amazon. To really get this right a fairly healthy retailer will have to design the store of the future, which has a brick-and-mortar layout, which is 85 percent fresh products, which has a state-of-the-art delivery system designed from the ground up and which has a BOPIS setup that actually works. It can and will be done, but trying to retrofit old layouts and suddenly become a e-commerce expert simply will not work, so the third-party companies are called in. It is a catch-22 here and someone with deep pockets can and will figure out how to beat Amazon at this game. You can count on it.

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