The Untold Truth Of H-E-B Supermarket

H-E-B is more than just a grocery store — it's a Texas institution. Right up there with bluebonnets, barbecue, Shiner Bock, Willie Nelson, Tom Landry, armadillos, and Dr Pepper... okay, you get the picture. H-E-B is one of the Texas-iest things ever to come out of the great state of Ohio. Just kidding — of course we mean Texas.

How much do Texans love their H-E-B? So much so that the Houston Chronicle reports one mom staging a maternity photoshoot in her local H-E-B in Tomball, Texas, while wedding photographers Snaptacular Photos shared a couple's engagement photos taken at the H-E-B in Bryan-College Station. A store special enough to share everyone's special-est moments, that's H-E-B to a T. 

What's more, H-E-B loves Texans as much as they love H-E-B. Not only does the store support Texas charities ranging from food banks to the state Special Olympics, but Wide Open Eats reveals that they also go out of their way to promote Texas-made products (including Whataburger!) in their stores. If you are not from the great state of Texas, or even if you are, though, there are still a few things you may not know about this super-est of supermarkets.

What the letters in H-E-B stand for

While H-E-B uses the cute and catchy slogan "Here, Everything's Better," this is not the real meaning behind the initials. They actually stand for Howard Edward Butt, who was the son of the store's original founder, Florence. The Texas State Historical Association relates that Florence's grocery, which she opened in Kerrville in 1905, was called Mrs. C. C. Butt's Staple and Fancy Grocery. Son Howard took over the grocery in 1919, and by 1942 he'd expanded it to a statewide chain and wisely decided to change the name from Butt's to the less snicker-worthy (and more enigmatic) H-E-B.

Even after over 100 years in business, H-E-B remains a family-owned and run business. Wide Open Eats says that current chairman and CEO Charles Butt is actually the son of old H.E.B. himself. While H-E-B is one of the nation's largest privately-held supermarket chains (and its 15th-largest privately-held company of any type), not all of the shares are in the Butts' hands, however. In 2016 the company began granting stock to company employees, with the hope that eventually the company will be up to 15 percent employee-owned.

H-E-B's launched a few spin-off stores

From its beginnings as a small, single-store grocer, H-E-B today has grown to include over 340 stores in all and employs over 100,000 workers. What's more, they're actually an international company — although they only have locations in a single U.S. state (although a very large one), they also have stores across the border in Mexico.

H-E-B also owns and operates several other brands. In 1994 they opened the first of these, the upscale Central Market, which offers a European bakery, an international deli selection, and fresh juice and ice cream bars. 2004 saw the first H-E-B plus! offering an expanded range of lifestyle products including electronics, household items, lawn and garden equipment, and baby supplies. 

In 2006, H-E-B introduced Mi Tienda, a brand specifically targeted at a Hispanic market. These stores are decorated like Mexican village markets, and offer products including pan dulce, pupusas, and piñatas (and presumably items starting with letters of the alphabet other than "p"). 2010 brought the most recent brand expansion, Joe V's Smart Shop, which is a budget-minded option similar to discount grocers such as Aldi and Save-a-Lot.

H-E-B has its own restaurants

While many supermarkets offer prepared grab-and-go food and some even boast small sit-down areas where you can consume your deli sandwich and fresh-squeezed OJ, not too many go that extra mile and offer an actual full-service sit-down restaurant experience. Well, leave it to H-E-B to do just that.

Currently, there are four different H-E-B restaurants that all serve lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch, are licensed to pour wine and beer, and even offer live entertainment. The 3 Double-O Nine Restaurant & Bar in Schertz (a San Antonio suburb), the Oaks Crossing Restaurant & Bar in San Antonio, and Table 620 in Lakeway (in the Greater Austin area) all specialize in chef-inspired bistro sandwiches, street tacos, pizzas, burgers, and entrees including fajitas, steaks, and seafood, while the True Texas BBQ has 11 different locations dishing up one of the state's best-loved foods.

H-E-B even plays host to a cooking school

As if operating its own restaurant empire weren't enough (did we forget to mention there are also four different H-E-B takeout restaurants whose offerings range from boiled crawfish to tacos, pizza, and rotisserie chicken?), the supermarket chain even operates its own San Antonio-based culinary academy. Wide Open Eats says this cooking school is used to train H-E-B staff who work the sampling stations and prepared food departments as well as its in-store restaurants.

My San Antonio reports that the facilities include a "commercial kitchen and about 20,000-square-feet of office space that support the locally-based grocer's strong own brand offering..." In 2014, it was estimated that the price tag of this H-E-B training center would cost $10 million. Clearly, this is one grocer that's invested in its employees from back end to the store floor.