Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Tip #70: Educate Your Employees on Chocolate

Do you realize your front-line staff is asked a variety of questions by your customers? From how your confections are made to where the chocolate comes from, customers these days are more inquisitive than ever about how the products they consumer are made. Therefore, this week’s tip is to take time to train and educate your employees on how chocolate and your particular confections are made.

Below find a few ideas to help you begin creating a training program:
  • Let employees get to know you, the owner, as well as the head candy makers (of course, oftentimes that is one and the same). If you have small company, consider a quarterly lunch with the newest employees to introduce them to how you came into the business and why you are passionate about it. Then, they will be able to tell your customers how and why the owner is passionate about quality confections which will help build trust and value for your company.
  • Put together a list of required reading and do monthly or quarterly quizzes. The restaurant industry does this for servers – trainees have to take a test on the menu before they are allowed to be on the floor taking orders. You can create a variety of quizzes, from how your company’s confections are made to where and how cocoa is grown. Of course, you can make it fun with prizes, rewards, etc. for the top scoring employees.
  • Utilize thestoryofchocolate.com. This website has great information and videos for your employees to discover the origins of cocoa and gain an appreciation for the farmers that grow the beans. Rather than expecting employees to visit this site on their own time, consider providing time at the beginning or end of the day that they can use a company computer to view specific videos, articles, etc. to make it a formal part of your training program.

As you educate your employees regarding how confections are made, they will be able to provide valuable information to your customers as they are perusing your store.

RCI Members: Peter Higgins of Purdy's Chocolates presented on the program they use to train their employees to be chocolate experts last fall at our Canadian Chocolate Tour. Access the session handout by signing in to the RCI website as a member. Then, click on Past Education under the Events & Education tab.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Tip #69: Mark Cook Temperatures on the Thermometer

This week’s tip is quick and easy, and it’s going to make your candy making life easier! 

You likely already have a book near your kettles that says precisely which temperature each of your candies should reach and for how long. We suggest taking it one step further and marking the desired temp for your most common candies right on the thermometer. This takes guesswork and estimations out of the picture and ensures your staff is aiming at the right temperature for each candy.

As you know, one or two degrees can make a huge difference when it comes to candy making. So, use today’s tip to do everything you can to keep the quality of your candies consistent.

Using a digital thermometer? Consider hanging a chart nearby for your candy makers to quickly reference and ensure accuracy.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Tip #68: Celebrate National Jelly Bean Day

Each month there are so many great candy-themed holidays to celebrate. One very fun day is coming up next week, April 22 – National Jelly Bean Day! This week’s tip is to have fun and celebrate!

Four fun ways to celebrate National Jelly Bean Day:
·       Post jelly bean trivia on Facebook and Twitter. Even better, make it a contest and whoever walks into your store with the answer gets free jelly beans (set a standard weight that is free).
·       Post colorful pictures of jelly beans on Pinterest and Instagram, reminding your followers they can buy them at your store (remember to make the pictures high quality!) (will link to last week’s post about pics)
·       Deliver ‘thank you’ packages of jelly beans to local heroes – fire, police and ambulance departments. Be sure they know it’s from you and that they are appreciated!
·       Recently RCI member Jelly Belly Candy Company revealed a candy calculator on their website. It helps you figure out how much candy you need for favors, parties or candy buffets. Check it out here. And then share with your wedding and party planning customers and remind them to come to you to fill their candy buffet!

Do you have more fun ways to celebrate National Jelly Bean Day? Share them in the comments below!

National Jelly Bean Day is one of many fun holidays noted on the annual RCI wall calendar provided to our members. If you’re not an RCI member, learn more about the many benefits of joining today.

P.S. We’re having a blast this week at our Historic Pennsylvania Chocolate Tour - check out photos on the RCI Facebook page!!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Tip #67: 5 Reasons to Invest in Product Photos

Pictures speak a thousand words, right? Then, why is it that we visit hundreds of retail candy maker websites each year that either have no photos of their products, or they have low-quality, un-appetizing photos?  By not having beautiful photos for your customers (and potential customers) to view, you may be missing out on countless sales opportunities. Yet, provide appetizing photos on your website, and those who land there won’t be able to say no to the sweet temptation.

Do remember that more often than not, your smart phone or home digital camera is not going to provide the correct lighting, resolution and quality you need for your marketing materials. You need a professional. We understand that professional photography is not exactly cheap. That’s why this post is titled 5 Reasons to Invest in Product Photos. A professional photographer understands aspects such as lighting, space, etc.

If you’re thinking, “Where will I use these photos besides my website?” we’ve got you covered. Here are five great uses for excellent product photos:
  1. Website – online store, homepage, background
  2. Print Marketing Collateral – brochures, business cards, catalogues
  3. Facebook (social media) -  cover image, photo albums, posts
  4. Store D├ęcor – enlarged and framed pictures, photo canvases (possibilities are limitless!)
  5. Industry Publications – illustrations for articles (They will give your company credit thus building your brand.)

So, grab some of your best-looking product and find a photographer. If you use them wisely, we believe you’ll see a great return on investment in no time.

P.S. Have you made plans yet to join RCI and fellow confectioners in Cincinnati this June? The RCI Annual Convention & Industry Expo is the place for industry collaboration and idea-sharing. Meet your suppliers face-to-face at the free Industry Expo and then receive education and gather ideas at the convention. Find all the details at retailconfectioners.org/annual. Hurry - early-bird registration ends May 24!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Tip #66: Complete a Post-holiday Recap

Now that Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Easter are behind you, this week’s tip is to take a moment to do a recap for each holiday. By stopping to review items such as inventory, sales numbers, marketing and more, you can forecast more accurately for the following year’s holidays.

Questions to ask during your post-holiday recap may include:
  • What was the day of the week and/or date of the holiday?
  • Did the weather impact sales (positively or negatively)?
  • What sales or special offers did you have? What was the response to each?
  • Did you have too much or too little inventory of any particular items (products or otherwise)?
  • Was staffing adequate for each day and time leading up to the holiday?

Be sure to include your staff in the process. Oftentimes, they see and hear things from customers that could be enlightening for your holiday planning.

RCI Members: Access a post-holiday recap template created just for RCI members by signing in to the RCI website as a member. Then, click on Planning Tools under the Member Resources tab.