As Rastelli Foods Group has grown over the years, it has worked to maintain its tight-knit family atmosphere in its corporate culture.

Hanacek: Ray, thanks so much for joining me. Congratulations on Processor of the Year. Lots to talk about here at Rastelli, that's typically what happens with Processor of the Year. I did want to talk to you, you talked a little bit about the family atmosphere here at Rastelli Foods. There was one point that I wanted to expand upon a little bit. You created these Lunch with the President events, and I wanted to talk to you a little bit about those. Tell me why you created that and explain a little bit about how the logistics of it work. Is it lunch with a small group, a large group? Go into that a little bit.

Rastelli: Sure. Well, this was born out of an idea that we listen really well to our customers, and our customers tell us what the need and we act on that, but I thought we needed to better engage our own employees. They're the people on the front line who are doing all the work every day. We instituted a program called Lunch with the President, so each Friday, and every Friday, I meet with a department. The department could be as small as five people, it could be as big as 20 people inside that department. We spend an hour and a half, we treat them to lunch, we sit down, we talk openly, candidly about things that are going well, things that are not going so well, and ideas, and make them really part of the solution. They have been extremely beneficial.

Because we've got 10 departments inside this facility, I'm meeting every 10 weeks with each department. Every Friday I get an opportunity to speak with them, I get closer with them, I get to really understand a little bit more about them personally, what affects them, things that they need, and they help me to understand what we need as an organization to get better.

Hanacek: How long have you been doing these?

Rastelli: We've been doing this for about a year and a half now, and it's proved to be just invaluable, just absolutely invaluable.

Hanacek: Great. Give me an example or two of ideas you've gotten from these lunches that you've put into place, or modified a system, or a strategy, or an operation. Give me an example or two, and what that kind of resulted in.

Rastelli: One of the critical things that we talk about in solutions is how is it gonna impact this? How's it gonna make life better for the employee, better for the company, and how's it going to become profitable? We try to monetize those things and let our employees really become part of that solution. One of the things that was really beneficial and came from our maintenance team. We have about 15 people on our maintenance team. Through the course of lunch one day, we started talking about uptime and downtime and what would prevent some of that downtime. One of the mechanics said, "Well, if we have a stronger WiFi connection on the floor, we could use our phones and FaceTime with a mechanic from the manufacturer that might be in Germany or might be in Boston or wherever it might be, and actually get some real time information on how to correct an issue or a problem with a piece of equipment, versus waiting a day or two or three for them to fly in and to get in here."

When you can think about the uptime that is helped us with, dramatically, the cost that is reduced because we're not bringing in people from the outside and taking days to do it. That simple solution we enacted 30 days later, and we've already seen tremendous impact on when equipment goes down, because it inevitably goes down, the speed in which we can get it back in and recover. That was one that was really terrific. Another one really came from just the employee side on how can they become more efficient and faster, and this came from really one of our packing people on a packing line. Her thought was, "Well, at the end of the first shift, and I'm on the second shift, I've gotta go get the equipment that I need, the scales, the recorders, the RF guns that I need, and I've gotta go find them from the first shift. If I, in fact, had my own for the second shift, that were designated in a spot that had my name on them, that I could get them, then I could eliminate about 15 minutes every day of going to find pieces of equipment just to do my job."

That was a really simple one to enact and put in place. Not only do we build efficiencies for that employee, but we take some stress out of it. They come to work and they start right away, and then they start to hit the numbers that we expect, so their KPIs work, they're happy, and the company's happy. It has proven to be invaluable. We have instituted over 30 different suggestions that have come from the departments. They're their solutions, and when they're their solutions they become really productive.

Hanacek: Great. I assume this is planned to continue into the however long future down the horizon, based on the benefits thus far.

Rastelli: It is. I can tell you the meetings now are even more fun, because now we don't only have to talk about things that we need to do, but we talk about the successes, and we celebrate those successes with those employees. We make sure that they get rewarded, too, because they're invaluable to us. Yeah, they'll continue on for as long as I'm here.

Hanacek: Great, great. Again, Ray, thanks so much for the time, and thanks for having me out. Congratulations one more time on Processor of the Year.

Rastelli: Thank you. We're really proud of it. Thank you so much for the honor.

Check out these other video Q&As with The National Provisioner's Editor-in-Chief, Andy Hanacek, and Ray Rastelli III and Ray Rastelli Jr.

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