BEDFORD HEIGHTS, Ohio -- Riser Foods here has just launched a training program designed to give the chain a steady supply of bakery employees at all skill levels.
Like most retailers, Riser is looking to slow the turnover rate in entry-level positions, but it also faces replacing a number of journeymen bakers when they reach retirement age. Above the entry level, turnover is low.
Riser's units are situated in a market area where scratch baking is the norm, even among in-store bakeries, said Fred DiQuattro, director of bakery, deli, seafood and food service, for Riser, which operates 44 Rini-Rego supermarkets. The training begins with a six-month program that's divided into three specific segments: two months of cake decorating, two months of frozen dough handling and two months in which trainees will be taught some managerial skills.
At the end of the six months, the trainees are qualified to operate a bake-off operation. Depending on their scores on hands-on tests and written tests, some will be assigned to Riser's frozen dough operations. Others, who qualify via their test scores, will go into a two-and-a-half-year apprenticeship program to become a baker or a decorator, said Tony Rosati, bakery operations manager.
But trainees assigned to frozen dough operations can, after a year and a half, take a test for entrance to the apprenticeship program.
"This should slow turnover at entry level because they'll realize this is a career. We'll also keep them in one store," DiQuattro said, adding that training will be done at store level as the apprentice works alongside journeymen bakers. Seven people are in the first training class, which began in December.
Thirty-three out of Riser's 39 bakeries are scratch operations and the company currently employs 130 journeymen bakers. A few years ago, Riser acquired several independents that employed journeymen bakers. But expansion of bakery departments and the addition of more stores with scratch operations spurred the need for a larger team of experienced bakers.
"With the opening of our Marketplace stores [where the focus is on fresh food departments], we drew bakers from our other stores. That's not good, because it sabotages the stores they were in," said Rosati.
"We're a union operation and our contract with the union dictates that a general bakery helper [the designation for a first-level employee] is restricted to certain tasks such as handling frozen doughs and frying doughnuts," he said. Until now, the company didn't have a structured program of its own that would take a general bakery helper through the training necessary to become a journeyman.