Think of the department like a Chicago hot dog - The Packer

Think of the department like a Chicago hot dog

05/31/2013 08:58:00 AM
Armand Lobato

Armand LobatoArmand Lobato,
The Produce Aisle
"Drag it through the garden?”

I was confused at a Chicago hot dog stand a couple of weeks ago when the vendor asked me this question. Without hesitation I agreed.

What followed was a lightning-fast assembly of my dog. The vendor slathered the red hot with mustard, onions, pickle relish, a dill pickle spear, tomato wedges, hot peppers and a dash of celery salt.

“Ketchup?” I asked.

“Bite your tongue, he muttered. “Anything here you haven’t seen in a garden?”

This brief exposure to the Windy City’s nomenclature of dressing up the common hot dog made me think about how well a produce department is prepared for summer’s demand for fruits and vegetables.

Just imagine for a moment examining your produce stand and try to evaluate it from a customer’s point of view.

How is the section of leafy greens? Fresh, clean and not packed together too tight?

All the fixings nearby in good shape as well? Radishes, cucumbers, green onions, peppers and more?

Nearby, how’s the selection and freshness of other essentials in your produce department “garden” offerings? Melons easy to shop out of shipper bins? Cut melons nearby, fresh and an assortment of sizes and varieties? Berries culled and bananas neatly arranged for fruit salads?

Neatness counts

All displays nice and level, too? This is often a point of contention with some managers.

“The stuff is out there — what does it matter how it looks?” some may ask.

Produce is a lot like nice landscaping. When the displays are neatly stacked and mostly level the appearance is at its best. And when the produce offerings are optimal, the impulse to purchase is at its peak.

In other words, when a display is easy on the eyes, sales will be at their best as well.

It’s always a good idea for a produce manager to talk a quick walk around the department several times a day to see how things are looking in the “garden.” Sometimes he can spot a potential issue that needs attention right away, such as a depleted ad display or a section of a table or rack that needs a good straightening. Many tasks and quick culling can be done on the spot but a smart produce manager delegates the more, time-consuming projects.

Using your customer point of view can help reveal everything from a need to get the floor swept and mopped to something as simple as noticing the plastic bags and twist-ties need attention.

Customer’s shopping and buying habits are really not unlike the Chicago hot dog vendor. A shopper fills their carts just as a vendor adorns the hot dog with produce selections.

We want to make sure our produce “garden” is in the best condition when they do.

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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Denise Donohue    
DeWitt, Michigan  |  June, 06, 2013 at 08:53 PM

Ha, ha. Yet another saying I've never heard: "Drag it through the garden." LIKE it. Interesting column, Armand.

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