Langenstein’s Supermarkets (Langenstein’s) is New Orleans’ oldest family-owned grocery business. Founded in 1922, the Langenstein family has owned and operated the company for five generations. Michael Langenstein started the original store in uptown New Orleans with his two sons, George and Richard Langenstein.
Langenstein’s now serves customers from two locations in the Big Easy. While the operation has grown significantly since it opened its doors more than 90 years ago, Langenstein’s still embraces a family-run, small business atmosphere, like the Cheers of grocery stores where ‘everyone knows your name.’
Trey Lanaux, Michael Langenstein’s great-great-grandson and COO, is proud to follow tradition. The management team also includes his father, H.D. Lanaux, his uncle Michael and cousin, Ellis. Furthermore, Trey’s sister, Ashley Lanaux, is the company’s publicist.
With only two stores in New Orleans, customers come face to face with the family on a daily basis. Trey and his family’s involvement in the operation ensures a better sense of personal attention, a factor that draws customers to the service-driven shops.
Responding to market changes
While Langenstein’s embraces an unusual old-school sensibility when it comes to doing business, the management structure is anything but. The team strives to stay in touch with customers, utilizing interactions to improve service, product offerings and back-of-house efficiencies. The store is known for updating product lines to meet customer requests. For example, if a shopper has been out of town shopping for groceries and sees an item, they can request that Langenstein’s starts carrying it. “We look into that,” says Trey. “We take our customer recommendations seriously and often that is how we end up carrying new products.”
Furthermore, Langenstein’s has a number of major, long-term relationships with suppliers already in place. These relationships allow the business to offer consistent products at consistent prices. Customers can count on the stores to carry the best of the basics. These partnerships also give the business flexibility to try new things and often offer connections to new products and food trends.
Local, organic and natural food have been on the rise. “People are trying to eat healthier,” Trey explains. “We have seen an increase in demand for foods with greens, alternative grains, such as quinoa and more natural meat products. We recently added the Strauss line of grass-fed beef, as well as Applegate Farms sausages. We also carry Smart Chicken, which is not organic, but it is antibiotic-free. We haven’t seen a particular focus on any certain foods on their own, but there is an uptick in non-processed foods and whole ingredients.”
Bulking up customer relations
Langenstein’s has established a strong identity in the local market. The product mix is geared toward everyday shopping, as well as gourmet. Customers enjoy a vast, high-quality meat department and fresh produce. Shoppers can also find prepared foods, which constitute 15 to 20 percent of the stores’ business. The prepared selection includes comfort food, as well as New Orleans delicacies that have garnered attention from across the country. The team is adapting new technology to keep existing customers in the loop, attract more local regular shoppers and to share Cajun delights with curious foodies across the United States.
Langenstein’s also offers catering services through local partnerships. Around New Orleans, customers can have hot and tasty meals dropped off for meetings or events, choosing from a large menu. Other recent initiatives involve taking Langenstein’s into the digital age. The team is focused on building an e-newsletter and has already recruited more than 3,200 subscribers. The company is also ramping up a social media presence, utilizing tools such as Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram to engage with customers and show new customers what the business has to offer. Moving away from print and taking on a more social platform for marketing has allowed Langenstein’s to receive better customer feedback, as well.
While the family is happy with the business’ small size, Langenstein’s is always looking out for opportunities to grow. The company recently remodeled its Metairie Road store, updating cases, floors and signage. The fresh new look has been popular with shoppers. Trey says another location is always a possibility, but the company has nothing set in stone for geographic expansion.
While measurable, numbers-based growth is important, the Lanaux family sets the bar higher when it comes to gauging success. “Our sales numbers indicate customer satisfaction, good or bad,” Trey notes. As the number rise, so does the business’ demographic. With a growing media presence and consistent evolution in the business, Langenstein’s Supermarkets is moving up in the market and ahead into the digital age.