While supply chain challenges and increased ingredient prices are certainly putting limits on how much Rocky Mountain Pies is willing to invest right now, said Par Grandinetti, president of Rocky Mountain Pies, Salt Lake City, Utah, pointed to labor as being the most difficult hurdle right now.

“Labor is the toughest thing we deal with here,” he said. “If you don’t have workers for the line, it will erode production.” 

With two Amazon distribution centers in Utah competing for talent, the rules of the game have changed. But Rocky Mountain Pies anticipated the change and again, understood the rules and adapted in an attempt to win more employees. Before the pandemic, the company brought on Eric Carcellero as human resources director, who Mr. Grandinetti credits with making Rocky Mountain Pies a better place to be for its 250 employees.

The company sources labor from five temp agencies, refugee agencies, special needs organizations and local church programs. Before employees come into the facility to work, they are trained on food safety and standard Good Manufacturing Practices. They learn production tasks from trainers in place on each line. Today, Rocky Mountain Pies’ workforce speaks eight to 11 languages. To support that diversity, Mr. Carcellero initiated a language ambassador program. Employees can serve as translators for a little extra pay and a special designation on their uniforms. These employees can offer necessary language support when another employee may not fully understand a job function or instruction.

To encourage attendance, the company offers bonuses, an opportunity to spin a wheel of prizes that can include a free T-shirt, vacation days or $100 bills.

[Related reading: Rocky Mountain Pies prioritizes quality and relationships]

“When people get to spin the wheel, it’s fun to hear them cheer for each other,” Mr. Grandinetti said. “It’s a letdown when they land on the T-shirt, so we added more vacation days and hundred-dollar bills.”

The company also fosters camaraderie with an employee-of-the-month program for each shift. Employees nominate each other, and the management team votes to decide the winner. Those winners are honored with their picture on the wall, a plaque, a “Top Banana” trophy and designated parking space. Monthly birthday celebrations and recognizing significant cultural holidays, such as Mexico’s Independence Day, keep things fun.

“It’s those little things that bring joy and make it a fun place to be,” Mr. Grandinetti said.

On a more serious note, though, Mr. Carcellero also works to ensure employees feel heard and that concerns are addressed by the appropriate party. When problems arise, Mr. Grandinetti asks the question first, “Did we give them the tools to do their job?”

“You have to wrap your arm around these people and make them feel part of the team, and that’s what [Mr. Carcellero] has done,” he said.

Today, nothing appears to be slowing down for Rocky Mountain Pies. The company is currently running 33% ahead of its sales plan and even had to turn away $35 million of new business.

“I’ve heard for years that the pie business is flat overall,” Mr. Grandinetti said. “We’ve never experienced a flat sales year because we’ve worked with our existing customers to create unique products that set them apart from their competition. If our customer sales are growing, Rocky Mountain Pies will be in good shape.”

More production space sits at the company’s fingertips just waiting to expand the playing field. A continuous improvement director is constantly perfecting Rocky Mountain Pies’ game-winning strategy, and an HR director is always recruiting and investing in a talented team. With these things in place and demand showing no signs of letting up, Rocky Mountain Pies is ready to switch back to offense.

This article is an excerpt from the November 2021 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on Rocky Mountain Pies, click here.