Armand Lobato, The Produce Aisle
Armand Lobato, The Produce Aisle

Who cares if you and your produce clerks give the extra effort?

Your customers.

As Henny Youngman once jested, “Take my wife — please.”

My better half is a self-employed caregiver at an independent facility, but the elderly residents are far from independent. They require frequent help with basics such as personal care, errands and more. Because she works hard, is courteous and does more than what is required, my wife has all the business she can handle. This, despite her field being quite competitive.

Sound familiar to what goes on in a produce department?

Shoppers enjoy frequenting a store with friendly employees that show interest in their work and extend enthusiasm when they engage with customers. Whether yours is a small town store or the flagship of a multiunit, inner-city chain you can develop a following.

Every business has to some extent a following or core customer base. Take popular author Stephen King, for example. Every time he cranks out a novel or short story, he has legions of loyal fans waiting to snap up his work. The same thing can be said for techies. Even before the wave of recent Apple products, I remember our information technology department rushing out at lunchtime to buy the latest high-gigabyte flash drive. Surely just part of that following is mirrored all over the world.

Your regular customers, once they’ve been won over (which is not an easy accomplishment in itself), shop your store for many reasons, such as convenience, good quality, cleanliness, well-stocked shelves and reasonable prices, to name just a few.

One of the main reasons that a store develops a following is how fresh the perishables are, especially produce. Take Rochester, NY,-based Wegman’s chain, for example. According to, produce quality and selection are among the top reasons for the chain’s enormous popularity. But its success is owed to more than “offering a journey through a small, beautifully maintained, self-sustaining city” — as the site mentions. It starts with a great staff.

Successful chains that have built a following engrain in their employees a mantra of offering a service level that a customer might only expect in the finest of retailers. When a customer is greeted as they enter each department and offered assistance in finding something or reminded if they have any questions please feel free to ask — this makes a difference.

This is especially true in the produce aisle, as customers are often at a loss as to what items are in season, when something is ripe, what items should be refrigerated (or not) and so on. The best way to assist is if there’s a produce person on the sales floor who is eager to help.

That builds a loyal following. Take my word.

Armand Lobato works for the Idaho Potato Commission. His 30 years of experience in the produce business span a range of foodservice and retail positions.

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