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

Immediately after a remodel, it isn’t uncommon to hear about a produce manager stepping down from his or her position. Many times the manager was competent — even held in high regard before the remodel. How does this happen?

I can’t say for certain, but in most instances, I can point to one crucial mistake: The produce manager simply wasn’t prepared for the remodel process.

A remodel changes the dynamics of a store. Depending on the extent of the project (typically an investment of millions of dollars), the resulting change is often a dramatic new look, increased square footage, expanded categories, added personnel — the list goes on.

It’s enough of a disruption of what’s considered normal for even a seasoned produce manager to throw in the towel.

It’s exactly this person, the seasoned produce manager, who is needed to make the remodel a success. Here are a few suggestions to minimize the shock and awe.

  • Share the action plan. Months ahead of time, the supervisor should have most of the plans in place. Review everything with the produce manager — what to expect in every phase, be it construction, new fixtures, decor or department layout. Provide a written checklist of expectations in the months before, in the weeks before, the week of the remodel and the few weeks following the remodel in terms of who is responsible for what tasks. Make sure this is posted for the crew to review as well.

  • Train new people early. Typically a remodel means a boost in sales and expanded produce staffing. It’s best to get these people in weeks ahead of the remodel and train them well before the remodel takes place. If available, arrange for produce managers from sister stores at this point to assist during the remodel process. Many times this helps ease the stress of a remodel.

If possible, have the produce manager and key crew members participate in a remodel before their own. By exposing your upcoming crew to a preceding remodel, this will help them experience what to expect and enable them to adjust quickly to their own, upcoming project.

  • Solicit produce managers input. You may not be able to accommodate every request, but a produce manager knows his neighborhood and store. Consider any valuable tips that can blend in with the corporate plan.

After the first week, turn the department back over to the manager. Provide firm guidelines to follow, but the sooner you relinquish control to the regular produce manager the better off everyone will be with a level of trust levied to the key individual, the produce manager.

That’s the one person you need to run that nice, seamless remodel.

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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