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Inspirational speeches, funny uniform inscriptions part of store manager’s motivational toolkit

FMI's 2024 Store Manager Award recipient in the International category Rita Khijakadze has implemented so many successful employee and customer service initiatives at her store in Tbilisi, Georgia, her parent company has adopted her ideas chain-wide.

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FMI Store Manager Award winner Rita Khijakadze


This story is Part One in a series of stories featuring winners of FMI — The Food Industry Association’s 2024 Store Manager Awards.

As a teenager growing up in the country of Georgia, Rita Khijakadze was interested in sales.

“That’s why, during my student years, I decided to start working in the retail industry along with my studies, with a schedule adapted to students,” Khijakadze said.

It was in that first retail job that she quickly learned a valuable skill.

“My first position was customer care manager which taught me how to properly communicate with people,” Khijakadze said.

That skill has repeatedly proven beneficial and is one that quickly propelled Khijakadze to the position of store manager for SPAR Georgia in Tbilisi, Georgia. There, she continues to prioritize personal communication with her associates and foster a culture of adaptability and recognition. Khijakadze’s daily motivational speeches, humorous uniform inscriptions, animated huddles and “Hero-of-the-Week” awards have been so successful they were adopted by SPAR chain-wide. 

“Seeing my team members grow personally and professionally under my guidance can be incredibly fulfilling,” Khijakadze said. “Creating a supportive and positive work environment where everyone feels valued and respected is a significant reward in itself and, of course (brings) personal growth.”

Overcoming challenges fosters empowerment

Khijakadze’s role — and the role of a food retailer store manager in general — often presents opportunities for personal growth and development, she said.

“Managing a diverse team of employees with different personalities, work styles and skill levels can be challenging. Addressing conflicts, motivating staff and ensuring everyone is working towards common goals requires strong leadership and communication skills,” she said.

Maximizing operational efficiency while minimizing costs and waste also requires continuous improvement and optimization of processes and workflows,  Khijakadze said.

“Balancing the need for efficiency with maintaining high standards of customer service can be challenging,” she said. “(But) overcoming challenges, learning new skills and finding solutions to complex problems within the store environment can be very satisfying and empowering. It allows me to showcase my leadership skills and strategic-thinking abilities.”

This year, Khijakadze has been recognized by FMI – The Food Industry Association as the association’s 2024 Store Manager Award recipient in the International category In addition to her creative staff development and support ideas, FMI noted Khijakadze’s proactive approach to customer service which include the implementation of a self-checkout system and a QR system that allows customers to provide instant feedback on their in-store experiences – both of which have also been replicated across the company.

Ascending from an intern to managing the chain’s most high-volume location, Rita’s strategic prowess has propelled significant sales growth and revenue milestones, including a tenfold increase in EBITDA, according to FMI.

Love and hard work are keys to success

For others considering a career in food retail, Khijakadze has some simple advice.

“It is important to have interest and love towards the work you do,” she said. “Step out of your comfort zone, overcome challenges and work hard to achieve your goals.”

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