The store was impeccably clean with no stacking trolleys and members of staff in every area to offer assistance. Garden peas were out of stock but had been replaced with petits pois and there were no other visible gaps on the shelves.
One assistant helped our shopper to find beetroot and explained the different varieties and flavours. The attendant on the checkout was friendly, helpful and efficient, and offered to help pack.
Countryland Butter was out of stock in Asda and there were lots of stacking trolleys in the aisles. The mystery shopper said this Asda was a "lovely shop to shop in" with extremely helpful staff.
The fruit & veg section in the Hazel Grove Sainsbury's had many gaps. An attendant said the store was not coping with staff shortages and kept taking people from the shopfloor to the checkouts.
Morrisons in Banbury had three items out of stock. "Staff gave the impression that they did not like to be interrupted from whatever they were doing" and "were fairly blunt with their responses" when our shopper asked for help. Sweet potatoes were also wrongly itemised as turnips on the receipt.
Staff in Tesco in Hackney were not helpful. The checkout assistant did not offer assistance with packing or say thank you or goodbye.
Winner: Paul Reeley, branch manager, Waitrose, Colchester
Our shopper was impressed with one attendant's enthusiasm for beetroot. How do you encourage staff to engage with the products? We only opened in September and our workforce is all new. We've encouraged every single one of the partners to really take an interest in the area they're working in to improve their product knowledge as quick as possible.
How did you recruit for the store when it opened? We had an incredible response 1,600 applicants for 240 jobs. We made sure the recruitment team was very clear as to the type of individuals we wanted people who are passionate about food and have the confidence to talk to customers and continue to grow the branch in a brand new area.
Our mantra is to develop and empower a team of partners with a desire to deliver an unrivalled shopping experience for our customers.
How are you involved with the local community? We have a two-year deal to sponsor the Colchester Carnival, which hadn't been staged for 10 years. Two weeks before it opened, we handed out bags for life with information about the store, vouchers and recipe cards. It was a great opportunity to market ourselves and support the town.
On Saturday the Colchester Food Bank was in the foyer with lists of items that people might like to buy more of and donate to the needy. They had so many parcels in the end that they had to send three vans to collect them all. This just illustrated to me the generosity of our customers.
How have Delia's and Heston's recipes gone down in store? There's real evidence of customers buying all of the component parts to try something different. They can pick up the card and all the ingredients from one fixture. We prepare every recipe in our dining room to allow partners to try them and speak with authority about them to customers.
How does Waitrose's membership of the John Lewis partnership affect the store? It certainly makes a big difference because partners know that when they're making a difference it's to the business and themselves. It's like working for your own business.