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

Rusty Blade popped up from behind some training manuals on my desk. Rusty, as readers know, is my imaginary, miniature produce manager that chimes in with me occasionally.

Me: Morning my friend. I see you have your cart and trim knife at the ready.

Rusty: I noticed your advice to produce managers last week to clean the entire green rack/wet rack in one effort. I actually agree with you on this point.

Me: It’s good business to stick to a strict sanitation schedule. I believe you wanted to talk about resetting that freshly cleaned case, right?

Rusty: After a thorough Tuesday night scrubbing, that wet rack is to a produce setup person what to a fresh canvas is to a painter.

Me: You’ve done this once or twice, so how do you get started?

Rusty: I get in early and drag out the merchandise I need to get set up. I usually have ideas in mind about what changes I want to make before I begin. But I find I usually need to make adjustments, last minute.

Me: What’s the advantage of starting with an entirely cleaned case?

Rusty: Since ads break on Wednesday, this is the one chance to merchandise the rack to accommodate ad offerings. Typically wet racks are divided: half salad vegetables and half cooking vegetables. That I don’t change. But if my leafy greens are on ad, for example, I can increase facings on these items by adjusting facings on everything else.

Me: And you can’t do that if the rack isn’t stripped entirely?

Rusty: Not as easily. I like to lay out a single, front row of the vegetables, keeping in mind that I’ll need enough space for not only ad items, but for all the power items — things like head lettuce, broccoli, bell peppers — items we sell a lot of.

Me: And if your facings turn out wrong?

Rusty: Then I backtrack and make adjustments in the facings so they do fit. It’s much easier to do this at this point than fight with moving a lot of merchandise later. Not only that, but I like the creative options.

Me: There’s creativity allowed on the wet rack?

Rusty: More than anyone realizes. I like to make green onion or carrot “fan” designs against the mirrors when I can. I like to mix up commodities, and have sharp color breaks too. Being creative isn’t limited to table displays.

Me: But you need a wet rack to take full advantage of the possibilities, right?

Rusty: It helps a lot. Once I’m done and the rack is rotated, stocked and level, it’s like a new store, every week. Now if you’re just going to sit there, grab a trim knife and lend a hand.

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.

What's your take? Leave a comment and tell us your opinion.