Progressive Grocer

Grocerant February 2017

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21 SOLUTIONS FEBRUARY 2017 ditionally, there are full menu tastings during training for new store openings, says Melt owner/founder Matt Fish. Plenty of research and development goes into each new product launch, says Fish, so the tastings aren't meant to get employee feedback, but rather to educate the frontline staff. Prior to new item launches, Melt provides staffers with written descriptions and preparation procedures, includ- ing a photo of the food, a list of ingredients and potential allergens, and such classifications as vegetarian and vegan. In addition, all of this information is explained to the staff during food demos, conducted over two days at the begin- ning of each shi so that as many employees as possible are included. Fish says it's also important to give staff members the backstory for each dish: "why we created it, how long it's been in existence, from where we source the ingredients, the reason it is named as it is, and what can be added to the dish to turn it into something else," he says. Testing tastes Having staff members taste each food item is particularly important for effective product education. In the same way that retail demos lead to additional sales—especially through effective shopper interaction with the demo atten- dant—so do recommendations from grocerant staff who have tasted all the food, says Goldberg. For example, an employee behind the counter can coach from experience about the taste difference between mayonnaise-based and vinegar-based coleslaw. Fish notes that he sees a sales increase aer the staff- demoed monthly tastings because the items are fresh in the servers' minds, and they tend to push the products they try and love. When the staff is regularly sampling, learning about and enjoying the food, they will not only better communicate to customers, but they will feel more respected and more like they are part of the team, says Joe Abuso, owner of Houston-based full-service food and beverage firm Genu- ine Hospitality Consulting. "Morale and camaraderie are huge in staff tastings," he says. "When they stand next to each other, it's like a direct- ed cocktail party situation, and it gets them to like each other and interact as people." And it's all the better if a manager leads the tastings, he adds. "If the guy in a suit can interact with the lowest-level employees, that's an opportunity for management to be seen as nice people," says Abuso. G n Take a methodical approach to staff sampling sessions in order to cover the entire range of products, advises Joe Abuso, owner of Genuine Hospitality Consulting. "It is especially important for staff to taste the trendy items, like gluten-free, organic and anything else that's the buzz of the day," adds Bart Goldberg, president and chief executive officer of Welldone Restaurant Concepts Inc. n An effective staff tasting need not take longer than 10 or 15 minutes. Besides encouraging on-the-spot verbal feedback from employees, it's also a good idea to provide a written form for staff to fill out and leave in a box, or of- fer computer access to a feedback form, Goldberg says. This could double as verification that staff members have actually completed the tastings. n Try giving each taste test session a theme: comparing cheese types on sandwiches, tasting the differences between deli meats or evaluating sushi rolls. Tasting session tips "Morale and camara- derie are huge in staff tastings." — Joe Abuso, Genuine Hospitality Consulting Just as retail demos lead to additional sales, so do recommendations from grocerant staff who have tasted all the food.

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