Sampling Your Product
We put so much energy into creating the “perfect” department for our customers - a clean and friendly environment, beautifully merchandised product, a well-educated and informed staff and a product selection that is second to none. You would think that such an effort would guarantee superb sales, however, all of those efforts may still not satisfy why customers will ultimately come to your store - they want the best tasting food. No matter how great it looks, how nicely it is displayed, or how friendly you may be, none of that guarantees that your peaches will eat well. And let’s face it, that is ultimately why people buy food, for the flavor! There is only one way to truly let customers know how your product tastes - you must sample it! No matter how eloquently you may describe the flavor of a sweet, juicy pear, it cannot take the place of an actual piece of pear in your mouth. Sampling is the ultimate test for the quality of the food that you sell.
Here are some key points to keep in mind as you set up a sampling program:
Sample the Food Yourself: This is critical. Make sure that on a daily basis you and your staff have tried the key seasonal and popular items in your department. It is difficult to promote flavor if you have no idea how it tastes. If you personally sampled the Bartlett pears earlier in the day and you then notice a shopper investigating the pear display, you can confidently go up to them and endorse the fruit based on you own experience. Customers would love to hear that you tried one earlier in the day and that they are at their perfect stage of ripeness.
Be Informed About Your Product: You can help your customers by not only providing them with samples, but by being knowledgeable about the very food they are eating. For example, it’s Tuesday morning and you have just cut into a peach for a customer. They are ecstatic about the flavor of this fruit, and realizing that they will be having company over Friday evening, they want to make sure that you will have great tasting peaches for when they return to shop on Friday. By being familiar with your inventory, you know that these peaches just came in today and that you will have the same batch of peaches through Saturday. You can comfortably let the shopper know that their needs will be well supported when they come back on Friday. Make sure that your staff has this type of information about all of the products that they have tasted. All staff members should know where the product is from, how to assess when it is ripe, and how long it can last in good edible condition in a customer’s own refrigerator.
Pay Attention to Your Customers: While some shoppers will actually come up to you and ask for a sample of a particular item, most won’t. It doesn’t mean that they aren’t interested; it typically means that they don’t realize that such an option is available to them. Catch your customers in the act of needing a sample. For example, you notice someone at the apple display who appears to be going back and forth between the Galas and Gold Delicious. Their internal dialogue may be going something like this, “I need a sweet apple, but which has the best flavor?” At that moment, showing up and asking if they would like to sample both apples in order to decide is the pinnacle of customer service. Watch the people who are shopping your department and offer them food.
Sampling gives your customers what they ultimately came for - to find out how tasty your food is. Don’t be shy about this. As a matter of fact, it’s best to be assertive with your sampling program. Not only does sampling give your shoppers an opportunity to first hand know how your food tastes, but it also tends to stimulate their hunger a bit, and there is nothing better than having a hungry shopper in your department. Sampling also generates more impulse sales than any other selling method. If buying 4 peaches was on the shopping list, but after tasting the fruit the customer decided that this was the best peach they have had all season, they could easily double or triple their intended purchase. Share your food and delight your customers!