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

So you’re expecting a produce load to arrive soon at your store. Easy, right?

Open up the back door, drop the dock plate, and unload those pallets stacked with fresh produce for the day — deliveries that can range anywhere from a few pallets to an entire trailer’s worth. Just another day in the salt mine.

Except when you aren’t prepared for the truck.

When a store isn’t ready for the big delivery it can be a heartrending sight: Not enough help to maintain both the sales floor and unload the trailer; empty cartons and pallets strewn about; no room to maneuver a produce cart through the stock room, much less an electric jack.

A situation that spawns many negative results: Damage, shrink, unsafe working conditions, double-handling of merchandise, excess labor and frustration.

Lots of frustration.

Being prepared for a produce delivery takes just a little training and forethought. And because every store has at least some idea of its delivery schedule, when the driver rings the back doorbell it should never come as a surprise.

By following these few steps, a store should be able to receive its load and proceed with other tasks seamlessly.

  • Make sure the electric jack is charged before the load arrives (or have access to spare, fully-charged batteries). This is more than anything a productivity and safety issue.
  • Have enough labor built into the schedule. The better stock conditions a produce department is in, the easier it is to divert labor to receive and put away the load. It’s also helpful if shift breaks or lunches are taken before the truck arrives.
  • Before the truck arrives, consolidate all on-hand merchandise, stacking it off to one side to clear as much floor space as possible.
  • Stack all resulting empty pallets together for quick loading back to the distribution warehouse.
  • Remove all debris, such as empty cartons, etc. Also, any secondary work activities in the receiving area should be held to a minimum. You’ll need the elbow room.

Good preparation with any task reaps big rewards. Grocery store receiving areas typically have slight to modest square footage. And produce, being a bulk business, takes up a lot of real estate.

When a produce department is prepared to receive a delivery, it sets the pace for productivity to follow. Many times new pallets of produce can be parked in pre-arranged slots to avoid double-handling and cold items can go right into refrigeration, which maintains the cold-chain. Meanwhile, other items such as bananas can be easily separated to avoid chill damage.

Here’s the key to the back door. Are you prepared for what’s on the other side?

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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