Zenput Moment: Taking Wegmans’ Temperature

By Brian Harris

On a recent visit to the East Coast, I had what I like to call a “Zenput moment.” We’ve come to define a Zenput moment as a real-life shopping experience in which retail execution could have been improved with Zenput.

If you live on the West Coast you may not be familiar with Wegmans. Other than being the second happiest place on Earth, Wegmans is part grocery store, part café. Some stores even have restaurant concepts. I visited a store with a standard Wegmans Market Café, which had about four different buffet areas: Thai/Chinese food, homemade pasta salads/Italian specialties, traditional salad bar, and appetizer foods (mozzarella sticks, hot wings, etc.).

My Zenput moment occurred when I was filling a to-go container. That’s when I saw a Wegmans employee using a food thermometer and a personal digital assistant (PDA). I watched as he used the probe of the thermometer to check the temperatures of the chicken, fish, and other items on the buffet line. He was methodical and recorded the reading he received on the PDA.

As a customer, this is something I like to see. The employee of a food establishment I frequent has been trained to properly monitor food temperatures and audit buffet operations. This makes me feel good about eating here. However, as a Zenput advocate, I couldn’t help but notice areas of improvement in this process.

Why have employees use a clunky PDA when they can use their own mobile device?

Think about it. First the employee had to learn Wegmans’ process for auditing food temperature. Secondly, he had to learn how to use the PDA. This device looked about as nimble as a Texas Instruments calculator I used in high school.

I think of the feedback we’ve received about Zenput thus far. Many of our customers report that the platform was so easy to use, minimal to no training was required. That’s because they’re using their favorite mobile devices to fill out a digital form on a mobile app. It’s a 21st century setup they’re comfortable using.

Also, what happens to the PDA files? Are they exported and emailed? Using a mobile device with a cloud-based app makes more sense. If everyone is accessing the same mobile platform, it’s easy to call up information on your preferred device. When is the last time you were in a meeting and the management team took out the cumbersome PDAs you see in retail stores?

I propose a new Golden Rule of retail technology: If you don’t find the digital device comfortable to use, don’t make your employees use it!

Food safety is important and requires attention, and I wanted to let the Wegmans employee do his job. I should have asked him if the thermometer and PDA were “talking to each other.” The wireless PDA was most likely (let’s hope for his sake) recording the results of the thermometer reading automatically, cutting down on a time-consuming step that’s prone to human error.

I saw the Wegmans employee pick up and place down the PDA multiple times, and use two thumbs to type. It didn’t look very comfortable. That was the culmination of my Zenput moment. For the employee’s sake, I hope his managers let him use a smartphone app soon!

Learn more about Zenput’s integration with ThermoWorks’ BlueTherm Bluetooth Probe by clicking here.

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