There are actually people in our business who would rather not sell produce.
Hard to believe? Just this past week I stopped in the United Airlines lounge for a little pre-flight Armand fuel.
On the food spread were two bowls of fruit. One heaping pile of aging, dried-out valencia oranges. In the other bowl were small red delicious apples, individually wrapped in plastic so thick you could barely even tell what they were.
No one was helping themselves to either offering.
I recognized this from other trips. It’s a classic example of servers not needing to continually fill the bowls. The mindset is, if the stock level doesn’t go down, it doesn’t have to be replenished. It’s a great way not to move fresh produce.
Once again, I shift this to things I’ve seen in retail. If you let clerks decide, for example, what item to sample (knowing that the sample trays have to be regularly re-filled) they might make the curious decision to sample chunks of hard, unripe persimmons.
It’s a different produce item than the airport lounge, but the same result. Trays remain full, and it’s one less thing the clerks have to do.
After all, if the sample tray was filled with a seasonal, ripe and flavorful item adjacent to the corresponding ad item that you’re trying to actually sell, not only would the sample tray need refilling, but the ad display would need more frequent stockings too.
What? We’re here to promote and sell more produce? Yeah, imagine.
Servers in the lounge and clerks in retail sometimes take the easy way out. In both examples this is a clear lack of management oversight. If you let clerks make critical decisions you can rest assured what they decide upon will work in their favor, not yours. And certainly not in the best interest of the organization.
Imagine if the lounge offering was perfectly ripe single bananas and vibrant, easy-peel tangerines. Imagine an on-the-ball produce manager making darn sure that clerks spend some time talking up the produce and doing everything to keep the volume moving.
Also, a good produce manager will notice when something stops selling. Take a closer look at the display — does it need a good straightening? Is the sign missing or the price incorrect? If the whole display is fine but there’s a single moldy piece of fruit in the center, you can bet that will kill sales.
Your clerks may or may not be nearly as excited as you to move lots of fresh produce. But it’s your job as a produce manager to generate the excitement.
Selling produce is tough. It’s easier if your people get into the game.
Armand Lobato works for the Idaho Potato Commission. His 40 years’ experience in the produce business span a range of foodservice and retail positions. E-mail him at [email protected].