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.
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