“What’s in the till?”

That’s one way a produce manager might ask how business is at any given point. Just a way of inquiring how sales are going. The “till” reference is a good visual. 

After all, it’s at the checkstand, following the repetitive clicks and scanner beeps, when produce rolls down the belt. You’ve ordered, prepped, merchandised and finally sold the produce to your customer. Now it’s time for the front-end employees to identify and correctly ring up those produce items.

Those employees, call them checkers or cashiers, are a vital part of your produce success.

If you don’t consider them so, you might make it a point of thinking otherwise. Even the word “cashier” should give you a clue.

Dictionary.com defines “cashier” as “An employee, as in a market or department store, who collects payments for customer purchases.” Which should raise the question: How do you suppose they handle fresh produce transactions?  

Speaking as a frequent, mostly hand-basket customer, when I go through the self-checkout lane, a part of me dreads when I get down to my produce purchases. And I’m a produce guy! I can identify or look up PLUs fast enough on the store’s handy posted charts. 

However, a part of me wants to ring everything up as 4011 — the universal code for bananas.

If this slows me down or I view it as an obstacle, can cashiers be that much different?

That’s why it’s important to get to know your store’s front-end managers, and especially the checker staff. In grocery store early days, cashiers not only had to know their produce, but they also had to pass a daily price test too.

No longer a requirement, but today it helps a produce manager to form a positive bond with the cashiers and recruit their support.

This might be won by enlisting the store and front-end managers to have the cashiers walk the produce department for a few minutes prior to their shift. Then they could see what’s on ad, what new items are available, and talk to the produce manager about what to look out for. 

Another way to get cashiers to tune into fresh produce is to arrange a weekly produce ID test. If you set up 10-15 items per week, things you think the checkers should be on the lookout for, it will help them tell the difference between like items, organic vs. conventional, or identify new or seasonal items that weren’t around the previous week. Help your cashiers help you.

When produce is rung up correctly, your sales and gross profit will be far more accurate, and it will help keep shrink in check too.  

Armand Lobato works for the Idaho Potato Commission. His 40 years’ experience in the produce business span a range of foodservice and retail positions. E-mail him at [email protected].


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