Armand Lobato, The Produce Aisle Andrew Carnegie once said that the way to become rich is to put all your eggs in one basket — and then watch that basket!
That’s good advice for a produce manager too.
OK, perhaps we take the advice not so much to get rich but to ensure that the produce aisle is running as efficiently as possible.
Take for example, the simple process of reviewing an invoice. The paperwork for a produce delivery from a distribution center commonly gets dropped on the receiving desk — and disregarded.
This can spell trouble. Paperwork frequently gets lost. It falls behind a prep table or gets tossed in the trash. Most of the time when this happens a manager may say, “I assume what I got billed for will be correct anyhow, the billing will show up on my statement. No big deal.”
Bad assumption. Mistakes happen on that paperwork all the time.
Billing invoices from any vendor need to be handled with care, even those from a warehouse that some managers say, “Those aren’t real invoices — basically just a packing slip.”
Once a produce load is received and put away, the following steps should always be taken:
- Check quantities received versus what is on the invoice. Sounds like a no-brainer, but if you ordered 21 cases of apples and only received 14 you’re short, and it will cost you if it isn’t documented.
- Check the pack sizes against what was received. Depending on the time of year, a pack change can happen overnight. Were you charged for two-layer stone fruit but received bulk? Did you receive 11-pound asparagus cartons but charged for a 28-pound pack? Nobody means for this to occur, but when it happens it can create a jolt of paper shrink if the error goes undetected.
- Check the costs. If your initial ad-item distribution doesn’t reflect the lower ad costs for example, this could mean you are getting off to a rocky start.
- Check the quality. While putting everything away, it’s essential to pop some lids and inspect what is being received. Warehouses run efficiently for the most part, but damaged or poor quality items can slip through the cracks.
- Check to make sure you have the right paperwork. If nothing matches, chances are you may have received the wrong paperwork or even the wrong delivery.
Overlooking any step can threaten the efficiency or accountability of a produce department, even if all other facets of management are sound. Whether the problem is shortages, quality, cost or pack discrepancies, it’s up the manager to get on the phone and straighten out the problem right away.
And these are just some of the “eggs” in our proverbial produce basket.
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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