Whole Foods Organizational Structure

  • Whole Foods Market employs a divisional organizational structure with a few characteristics and elements that make it different from other companies. Chief among which is a global hierarchy with four distinct tiers and a clear chain of command.
  • Whole Foods has 12 geographic divisions across the United States, United Kingdom, and parts of Canada. Most divisions incorporate multiple states or provinces and each is led by a regional President.
  • To better adapt to the characteristics of each geographic division, Whole Foods Market is supported by various functional departments and a notion of teams that extends beyond the store employee level.

Introduction

Whole Foods Market is a multinational supermarket chain with a focus on organic products that are free from artificial preservatives, colors, and flavors. The company was founded in 1980 by John Mackey, Renee Hardy-Lawson, Mark Skiles, and Craig Weller.

Whole Foods Market employs a divisional organizational structure but with a few characteristics and additional elements that make its composition different from other companies.

Let’s have a look at the nuances of this structure below.

Four-tier global hierarchy

Whole Foods Market’s global hierarchy features four different tiers:

  1. Global Headquarters.
  2. Regional Officers. 
  3. Facilities Employment, and
  4. Store Employment.

Spread across these tiers is a clear chain of hierarchical command. In other words, store managers report to facility managers, and facility managers report to regional officers who have direct access to company headquarters in Austin, Texas.

Geographic divisions

Whole Foods has 12 broad geographic divisions for its operations across the United States, United Kingdom, and parts of Canada. Most divisions incorporate multiple states or provinces and each is led by a President.

These include:

  1. Pacific Northwest – Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, and Alberta.
  2. Northern California – this also covers northern Nevada.
  3. Southern Pacific – Hawaii, Arizona, and parts of Southern California and Nevada.
  4. Midwest – most midwestern U.S. states plus the Canadian province of Ontario.
  5. Southwest – Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana.
  6. North Atlantic – encompassing much of New England.
  7. South – with states such as Mississippi, Alabama, and South Carolina.
  8. Florida. 
  9. Mid-Atlantic – such as Washington, D.C., Virginia, Delaware, and Maryland.
  10. Northeast – New Jersey and Philadelphia.
  11. Rocky Mountain – a vast division incorporating Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, and New Mexico, among other states.
  12. United Kingdom.

Functional structures

Each geographic division is responsible for adapting its business activities to the particularities of the region in which it operates. This is achieved with a functional structure that assembles employee skills and experience into the following groups:

  • Legal Affairs and Secretary.
  • Global Culinary Procurement & Operations.
  • Center Store Merchandising.
  • Growth and Development.
  • Marketing.
  • Operational Finance. 
  • Supply Chain & Retail Operations.
  • Team Member Services.

Teams

Whole Foods Market also likes to incorporate teams into its organizational structure. This is most evident at the store level, where teams are assembled for different product departments and business functions. In some cases, store teams are afforded more autonomy in deciding what to order and how to price items, with many also competing in intra-store competitions to see which team can drive the most revenue.

Less visible is the way the notion of teams is applied further up the chain of command. Each store leader in a given geographic division collectively forms a team, while each of the company’s regional presidents is considered likewise. 

Read Next: Who Owns Whole Foods?, Amazon Subsidiaries, ALDI Business Model, Amazon Business Model.

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