“Plan your work, then work your plan.”

This quote, attributed to many, has merit. Especially when preparing for one of the most exciting times in our business: Planning the produce set in a new store or remodel.

In either new or remodel, some may argue against much formal preparation, but planned measured steps (with your produce director or supervisor as your guide) and sticking to the schedule helps balance the workload. Here is an example plan in chronological order. 

three months

Three Months:

This is when things such as new produce fixtures, sign kits and other equipment should be verified. This is also the time to evaluate your crew needs, based on anticipated sales volume. How many full and part-timers will you need? It’s time to start interviewing people. Follow your supervisor’s lead for help in labor planning. Realistically, you can expect one-third of your produce clerks to be at an accomplished level, one-third with a few years’ experience, and one-third to have two or fewer years’ experience to fit, labor budget-wise.   

two months

Two Months: 

By now you should have most of your crew penciled into the roster. Now is also time to begin writing some initial schedules, starting with four weeks out. In weeks four through two, it’s a good idea to schedule your less-experienced crew to work at sister locations for training. Also by this point you should have all your grand opening ads or special

four weeks


Four weeks: 

At this point you should have labor schedules written through the two weeks post-grand-opening. This will allow you on-floor managing time during the grand opening. Try to include some area produce managers to help with your grand opening week and the two weeks post grand-opening. This will provide excellent high-level coverage and training experience.

Write a produce merchandising plan with your supervisor. Factors include: Ad item placement, grand-opening specials, space allocation, color breaks, décor, and seasonal merchandising.

two weeks

Two weeks:

With fixtures in place and schedules confirmed, it’s time to (finally) plan for the star of the show: Fresh produce! Start writing initial produce orders. Order just what is necessary to fill the shelves with no (or minimal) back stock. Meet with other department heads to include their set-up fresh produce needs as well. Consider you can stock some items a few days early but most of the initial set will be the day prior to (or even the morning of) grand opening for freshest appeal.

This is also the time to organize your sign kit. Assign your assistant or best clerk to assemble signs for all of your opening needs. Check your scales and other print/tag equipment. Is everything approved, certified and working? Shelving and cases all set?

six days

Six days: 

By now you can expect the unexpected: Remain flexible to changes and remember this is exactly like any produce department, where unforeseen things happen every week, such as limited produce availability.

If you carry dried fruit or other non-refrigerated items, this is a good time to have these stocked.

four days


Four days:

With late adjustments made, you are now actually working in the produce department. This is the time to adjust shelving, scrub fixtures, mat tables, and start hanging signs.


three days

Three days:

You can safely begin stocking items such as onions or hard squash. Signing should be mostly completed now. Arrange for extra printed signs for ad or grand opening items “just in case.”


two days

Two days:

Stock the hardier items such as apples, citrus and pears. Coach your set team to carefully handle the produce, cull carefully and hand-stack every display so that the end result has a full, abundant “grand-opening” quality and level appearance.

This is also time to tackle any prep work that can be done at this point. Review and adjust all incoming orders now too.


last day

The LAST day
(and night before!)

By now the produce department is mostly stocked. Finish setting up the wet rack, adjust the misting system, stock the multi-deck or other refrigerated cases, cut fruit, and complete other prep work. Organize and clean the receiving area for incoming loads. Review all signs and tags for price/scan integrity (including any last-minute price changes) with your price coordinator. Finally, give all mirrors, table edges, scale pans and chrome a good wipe down for the final inspection.


grand opening

{Grand opening day}

Everything happens today. Crowds of people pack the store. Your job as produce manager is to orchestrate orders and direct who needs to be where, when and how in order to maintain that “new store” look.

The once-quiet building morphs into a bustling grocery store, and you’re in charge of the most important department of all: Produce.


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