The Produce Aisle with Armand Lobato ( Photo by The Packer staff )

Last week I touched upon the reasons why produce managers get transferred from one store to another. It happens as managers move about, taking on higher or lesser responsibilities, opening a new store or transferring for other reasons.   

In all cases the store manager expects one thing from the new produce manager: positive results.

The good news is that a good produce manager can make a lot of changes (as is usually necessary) in a relatively short amount of time. This can translate into increased sales, stronger profit margins and less shrink. 

Here’s a typical short list of what should occur with a newly transferred produce manager.

Inventory and order control. The produce manager can usually make adjustments within the first couple of weeks in the newly assigned store. By carefully monitoring and ordering, even an out-of-control inventory can be cleaned up quickly, especially when using the store’s data information that measures average weekly produce case sales. 

Labor management and training. This takes a little more time. A produce manager must get to know his or her crew right away, working with them closely and assessing their strengths and weaknesses.

One produce manager I knew threw himself into the all-important training task by practically living at the store for the first 30 days. He worked alongside each of the crew from set up to closing and all the other hours in-between. He demonstrated what he expected in regard to setting time and listing priorities, sharing produce knowledge, stocking standards, sanitation and speed. After the 30 days was done, the produce manager reverted back to a “normal” schedule, confident that the crew understood his expectations, and held them accountable. 

This first month is also a good time to take a hard look and make changes to the labor schedule. How many full- and part-timers are necessary? Are there too few or too many of either? How are the shifts best staggered in order to cover the many tasks, from receiving a load to closing up shop for the night? 

Instill company programs. Every produce manager knows what these are, as they’re the critical control points that he or she is judged on by the produce director or supervisor: These include things such as stock-keeping units management, destination merchandising mandates, proper signage, sanitation and crisping — all the way to nutrition and fruit basket posters. 

Merchandising reset. A produce department doesn’t have the new manager’s signature on it until there’s a wholesale reset. This involves a great seasonal merchandising plan, lots of fresh produce and an overnight set of good hands to get the department cleaned, re-arranged and stocked like it’s grand opening day.

That’s the day a newly transferred produce manager can say they’ve arrived. 

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 lobatoarmand@gmail.com.

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