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3 tips from a produce expert

Dave Lemire is the produce manager at Tsawwassen Safeway in B.C., and the only Canadian winner of a 2011 United Fresh Retail Produce Manager award. Below, he shares his best practices.

Take ownership of your department

Produce is the first section customers visit. It sets the tone of the store and so employees in this department make a vital contribution to the store’s image. Lemire says one of his most important jobs, therefore, is mentoring his staff . Lead by example in all aspects of the produce business, from quality control to work ethic, he says. Lemire wants his staff to be able to do everything, including handling the paperwork. It gives employees a clear picture on how to be successful in produce, and gives you more opportunities to offer positive feedback on their follow-through.

Focus on food safety and shrink control

Lemire cites attention to these areas as having the biggest impact on his department’s profitability. Safeway makes daily deliveries to its stores, so Lemire says he’s able to control shrink while ensuring the freshest produce for customers. “We do a lot of composting in our produce department. If an item isn’t saleable or edible, we’ll compost it, which reduces our waste disposal costs,” he says.

Be a role model–in and out of the store

Lemire was too modest to talk about this one, but his store manager, Rick Munn, chipped in. “Dave’s department receives more store compliments than all compliments combined [from the entire store]. He’s the kind of man that makes a positive difference in our customers’ lives.” Munn relays the story about a young customer named Johnny who was born with apert syndrome, which left him severely physically disfigured. “Johnny always called Dave ‘boss’ and said that when he was old enough, he wanted to work for Dave.” Unfortunately, Johnny passed away before he was old enough. After his death, Johnny’s mom showed Lemire a school project in which Johnny wrote that when he grew up he would work for Dave at Safeway. “It really showed me how we can truly make a positive difference in someone’s life, even when we’re at work,” says Munn.

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