With as much as 40% of sales in fresh food, Budgens decided the time had come to create the role of fresh food manager... but how? Paul Daynes explains
Until this year, Budgens had taken a generalist approach to store management, with each store run by a manager supported by three assistant managers, none of whom had any specific category responsibilities.
This structure has served well in the past but recently we've taken the decision to move towards a more specialist store management, in line with our strategy to provide fresh food, close to home, at the right price.
In an average Budgens, 37% of our sales are in fresh food compared with 17% in an average convenience store, and in some stores that figure moves up to over 40%. So, since fresh food plays an increasingly important part of our business, we took the decision to create a new role of fresh food manager.
With full buy-in from our trading and operations colleagues and the support of suppliers and generic bodies, Budgens has initiated a fresh food managers training scheme.

Passion and knowledge
The aim is to give fresh food managers full responsibility for all fresh food categories, including produce, dairy, fresh meat, fish and poultry, hot food to go, deli and horticulture.
With the support of a dedicated instore team, they have full accountability, not only for departmental standards and wastage but also for sales ­ which we find really concentrates the mind.
Initially, we went over to look at Musgrave's approach to fresh food training and this convinced us that the quality angle and the educational training we had in mind would work for Budgens.
Firstly, for such a key role, we had to pick the right people from among the existing assistant managers.
We created a new job description and went through a formal interview process but, crucially, we were looking for real foodies.
Candidates had to demonstrate a genuine passion for food and have an ability to recognise quality and understand its importance to the Budgens business.
We then carried out a training needs analysis and discovered that while they were interested in food and were already well versed in procedures and merchandising techniques, what they lacked was product knowledge. This, together with fostering excitement for the subject, is what the training scheme had to deliver.
We already have a huge amount of fresh food expertise within the business ­ including two fully trained butchers on Budgens' board!
But we also decided to obtain some additional support from industry educational organisations, such as the Fresh Produce Consortium, the Meat Training Council and the UK Cheese Guild. With their help we have created top quality reference and study packs which cover product identification, storage and care, cooking and preparation, nutritional information and written and practical exercises.
This reference material, together with a series of workshops at our regional training centres and interface with suppliers, forms the backbone of our fresh food managers training scheme.

Field trips
The programme is designed to take the trainees systematically through fresh produce, delicatessen, fresh meat and horticulture.
Having completed each section of the programme, they achieve qualifications recognised by the relevant bodies. Individuals can work at their own pace but each section is envisaged to take between 10 and 20 weeks, which makes it really thorough and meaningful.
Suppliers have welcomed our initiative and have been hugely supportive. Site visits have brought another hands-on element to the scheme, taking our trainee fresh food managers to a wet potato field in Wisbech one month and to a cheese production plant the next. Suppliers are also helping us to run incentive schemes which generate even more excitement.
While I have had overall responsibility for creating the programme, overseeing the reference materials and designing the workshops, our nine-strong fresh food training team is delivering the training and continues to coach and support the managers through this ongoing process.
With the inspiration, ability and, hence, confidence the training scheme has given them, the fresh food managers are responding positively to this new responsibility.
Just five months down the line, we're already seeing results through improved availability, customer reaction and ­ best of all ­ even better fresh food sales.