Dan Malovany: Perfect Moves in a Perfect Storm
Baking & Snack Editor Dan Malovany on Turano Baking Co.'s response to a giant snowstorm in Chicago, IL.
BakingBusiness.com, March 1, 2011
by Dan Malovany

Now, I have a lot of dumb habits, but I have never understood why hordes of people rush to the supermarket to buy a year’s supply of bread and milk before every major storm. I can see making an emergency run for an extra fifth of hooch, but bread and milk? However, that’s exactly what people did two days before Snomaggedon of 2011 that pummeled Chicago and brought it to its knees. And while shoppers waited in long lines at their local grocery stores, the sales and marketing brain trust at Turano Baking’s Berwyn and Bolingbrook, IL, bakeries wondered what they would do if the weather guessers got their predictions right.

“Weathermen have been known to be incorrect. However, we felt it was better to err on the side of caution than not,” said Giancarlo Turano, a principal at the family bakery.

On Monday, two days before the storm, the management team first polled the sales supervisors to anticipate what to do if the storm hit, and it then surveyed its large food service customers, which account for most of the shipments on Wednesday — typically a light day for deliveries. Everyone agreed it would be prudent to double up on the amount of product delivered on Tuesday before the start of the storm, just in case The Weather Channel got it right.

After a near record snowfall of 20-plus in., the company was pretty happy it played it safe than sorry. “Our clientele were serviced properly. That was the good news,” Mr. Turano recalled. “The bad news is we still had to have people come to work on Wednesday to support Thursday’s distribution.”

To address this challenge, every employee with a SUV was put on call with a list of employees he or she was responsible for picking up after the storm hit. “Obviously, we had our challenges. We were on the road, but not all the plows were on the road, and not all of the cars were off the road because they were stuck on the road,” Mr. Turano said. “We can probably put out a Consumer Reports on SUVs and which ones work and which ones don’t.”

GM and Ford models did well, but the Land Rover got the best rating. While Mr. Turano was sleeping in Florida, his son Giancarlo II (aka G2) got stuck on an unplowed side road loaded with stranded vehicles at 4 a.m. Not wanting to crash the Land Rover’s transmission, he looked around and began pushing all sorts of buttons — including one with a snowflake and another with a snowflake and an arrow pointing up. Suddenly, the SUV rose up, went into overdrive and motored down the road.

Meanwhile, Giancarlo’s son Joe, who heads up production in the Chicago area, worked in the Berwyn plant 42 hours straight to coordinate the company’s contingency plan. In the end, all customers were serviced on Thursday, although the traffic was nasty (presumably from panicked people who pigged out on bread and milk as they watched the storm on TV).

Watching the weather is a longstanding tradition for many bakers who must adjust production runs for summer bun production or food service runs based on the forecast. In Orlando, FL, Mr. Turano noted, the security staff keeps an eye on the clouds to alert the bakery’s engineers to start up the generators when one of the region’s many squalls threatens to knock out power.

No doubt, the winter weather in Chicago has driven many men to drink, but in the end, Mr. Turano had to commend the meteorologists who got it right and allowed Turano Baking to make the perfect moves for the perfect storm.

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Storm track