86. Sam Mogannam

Owner of Bi-Rite Market, How To Get Sales Per Square Feet Like An Apple Store

86. Sam Mogannam
See Sam sell!

Sam Mogannam isn’t in his own San Francisco store; he’s at someone else’s market in Brooklyn and spots a shopper nearby. “Have you tried that pasta yet?” he calls out before approaching the woman. “It’s amazing. The vermicelli’s cool, it’s nice and thin, but the spaghetti? It’s out of control.” He rifles through the shelf, then places a $9 pasta in her basket. “That’s my favorite cut. I use it all day long at home.”

See Sam teach!

Bi-Rite is a single family-owned market with sales per square foot that exceed $4,000–Apple Stores stand alone in generating more than $5,000–and everyone from Walmart to Whole Foods has tried to learn from him. The lesson: “We’ve got this crazy rule for employees,” Mogannam says. “If a guest is 10 feet away, make eye contact with them. If they’re 4 feet away, engage them in conversation.” And also, stay small. “The joke is that it’s impossible to be more than 10 feet away from anyone in Bi-Rite,” which has just 1,500 square feet of customer space.

See Sam succeed!

The encounter in Brooklyn takes less than 20 seconds, but the shopper is enthused. Mogannam walks back, half shrugs, and says, “We love feeding people, man. We love teaching people how to feed themselves.”


  • 1974

    Starts working at Bi-Rite at the age of 6, taking the streetcar by myself to get there

  • 1987

    Gets a prep cook job in a restaurant and falls in love with cooking

  • 1988

    Graduates from hotel/restaurant school and moves to Basel, Switzerland where he lives and cooks at a two-star restaurant for a year and solidifies his passion for food and cooking

  • 1991

    At 23 opens his first business–a small bistro in downtown San Francisco called Rendezvous Du Monde.

  • 1997

    Meets future business partner Calvin Tsay while working for Joie de Vivre Hospitality Group

  • 1998

    Closes Rendezvous Du Monde and reopens Bi-Rite under his direction with help from his brother Raphael

  • 2001

    Marries an old friend, Anne Walker

  • 2003

    Daughter Zoe is born

  • 2006

    Buys his brother out and becomes sole owner of Bi Rite; opens Bi-Rite Creamery with his wife and partner Kris Hoogerhyde

  • 2007

    His second daughter Olive is born; starts Bi-Rite Farms in Sonoma, CA

  • 2008

    Founds 18 Reasons, his non-profit community food education space

  • 2011

    Signs a lease for a second Bi-Rite Market and Bi-Rite Creamery to open in the Western addition in 2012

  • 2011

    Publishes his first book, Bi-Rite Market’s Eat Good Food