The inner secrets of Britain’s biggest supermarket Tesco have been revealed – including how they use an “electronic potato” to ensure their spuds are never bruised.
With nearly 50 million shopping trips a week, the supermarket giant has honed its workflow down to a tee over the years – from the first stages of food production to the store floor.
The coronavirus pandemic also offered a new challenge as bosses had to work out how to deal with the unheralded number of online orders.
Channel 5 documentary Inside Tesco 24/7 explored some of what goes on day-to-day, exposing in the process some secrets staff have.
One section delved into how the retailer makes sure its potatoes are dirt and bruise-free before they reach the stores.
The spuds for their nearly 4,000 stores across the UK have been sourced from a farm in Braunston, Lincolnshire for over 30 years.
James Truscott, Managing Director at Braunston, explained potatoes are extremely delicate and it is a fine process to get dirt off them without bruising them.
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The potatoes go through the conveyor belts to do this but one of the key pieces of technology to ensure they don’t get bruised is what is called an “electronic potato’.
The bright orange and blue contraption is placed alongside the spuds and has a series of sensors on it which can determine whether each impact the potatoes feel is too severe and will damage them.
Elsewhere in the documentary, viewers also found out how staff deal with the huge bulk of online orders every day.
At the Newmarket Extra store, more than 50 members of staff pick everyone’s orders for the day.
A gadget known as a “Pick Stick” is used, which tells them exactly where to go in the store to complete customers’ orders.
Student Harry, who works part time during his holidays, explained: "The Pick Stick plans the route for me so it makes sure I'm never coming back on myself and includes all the ends of the aisles as well.
“It means I'm not missing anything out."
The sheer volume of orders during the pandemic meant Tesco had to urgently increase their staff numbers.
A crisis response team was set up in January which had to deal with more than 50,000 employees falling ill or self-isolating.
To tackle the issues, they managed to rapidly speed up the application process – with employees managing to start work just four hours after applying.
Tony Hoggett, Group Chief Operating Officer, said: “We had to recruit really, really quickly.
“So we brought on 50,000 temps in a very short amount of time. We were able to get people from getting an application form to starting work in four hours.”
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