Photos courtesy Brian Dey
In part one of our series Wet Rack Wisdom, we covered the basics of crisping and preparing your fresh produce to grace the shelves in your wet racks. With all that work now complete, you are ready to go into physically setting the rack and painting your picture!
When I was introduced to this amazing world of produce, the setting of the department wet rack was THE pinnacle of your produce success. It basically was the final exam in the produce department.
And I remember my first wet rack set very vividly. It took me almost an entire shift and looked absolutely horrible. An epic fail … However, I had a great manager and then many mentors after that who were able to give me guidance and go over some simple tips to help me hone the wet rack craft.
Everyone in the produce department had their chance at setting, and most truly loved doing the rack. I have been fortunate to witness some very skilled produce artists at work over the years and tried to learn something from everyone. All of them had and have their own unique style.
So like an artist, the produce merchant should prepare by visualizing what you want the result of your setting to be. Your finished “picture” should scream three things—vibrant color, fresh product and clean lines!
“Color” is for the super vibrant shades that commodities in this section provide. Beautiful chards, kales, cabbage, bunched carrots and radishes all pack some punch in the color department. You want your wet rack to be seen and attract your customers. A rainbow-like array of fresh greens is a simple and easy way to do just that.
“Fresh product” truly speaks for itself – that’s why you spent all of that time trimming and getting your greens ready for sale. Having the freshest product on display puts your best foot forward and projects the fresh image your store and produce department wants to be known for.
“Clean lines” might be better defined as “neat and tidy.” Rows or blocks of fresh produce meticulously aligned is a much better look than sloppy or thrown-together racks.
Together, these attributes combine for a sharp-looking wet rack.
Believe it or not, even the most skilled greenskeeper goes into each wet rack set with a vision to produce the finest art possible with the freshest product possible. Many things factor into this vision, such as product that you might have on hand and the style and size of the wet rack.
Even with operations that have preplanned racks or planagrams in place for the section, there are ways to add some creative flair to your set. Plus, preparing the mind ahead of time gives you a good head start as soon as you put that apron on!
You want to make sure you are putting your fresh produce on clean racks and shelves, free from any dirt, mud or debris. It’s a good idea to take a few minutes prior to starting the set to wipe, hose or spray down the racks and baskets.
Daily maintenance of this goes a very long way. The last thing you want your customers to see is dirty or moldy racks under the produce they just picked up.
With the cleaning done and the vision in place, now is the time to make it all happen. Knowing what and how much of each commodity you have is very important, and it’s also key to know what’s trending and what’s on sale, as that will influence your ability to restock throughout the day. You will also want to mentally go over the size, width and color breaking or blocking. Go with the most colorful arrangement you are able to come up with.
Some racks consist of sections for cooking and salad-type vegetables in their own separate areas, and some just basically choose to go off of color. Either way works just fine, just remember that the end result should be a vibrant display of color, freshness with clean lines.
One thing to note is that there are many ways to stack or block greens in a wet rack – standing up, ends in/ends out, alternate stacking side to side, etc. Choose what way you feel comfortable with or follow the guidelines of your produce manager.
Try different styles when you can. You could give a whole different look to the same section just by changing up the method of stacking.
With your masterpiece now created, finish it off by cleaning off the fronts of the cases, tidying up the floor, setting your signs and preparing your misters. If you do not have a misting system, be sure to have a hose hookup or even a pump sprayer. Anything that you will be able to spray water with will work.
Misting is very important because keeping your racks misted prevents the air from drying out your greens. Limp and soft greens mean softer sales. It is a good practice to make sure greens are misted at least three times per hour.
The wet rack is not a “set it and forget it” area. It requires a lot of attention to keep the appearance fresh and clean and stock levels up. Be sure to walk through often and straighten up rows and product to keep that picture perfect!
And now it’s time for me to …
It is nearly impossible to go into all the little nuances, tips and tricks for setting a wet rack in 1,000 words or less. There is just way too much information to share in such a small amount of space. The points above do give you a good foundation to build on, and the visuals shared here are small examples, but a lot of success you will have will be through trial and error and simply working through each set.
Try different ways of stacking, categorizing different commodities and showing off color. Whatever gives you that picture-perfect look of freshness that your customers will stop and say “Wow!
Brian Dey is the senior merchandiser and natural stores coordinator for Ephrata, Pa.-based wholesaler Four Seasons Produce. He’s an industry veteran with a serious passion for helping produce teams to achieve great presentation and results in their departments.