Beating COVID-19 is going to require an immense effort from every government and private sector organization across the entire world. In some cases, the best option is to shut down operationally, conserve cash, maintain talent resource to whatever degree possible, try to donate/give where it will do the most good, and plan for the post pandemic landscape pending the “reopening” of the economy. The grocery industry is among a select few that does not have this option. Grocers must react, adapt and overcome in real-time.
One silver lining in this crisis is that the technology, access to computing power and fast and secure connectivity available today is enabling the grocery industry to rise to the challenge and safely provide consumers with the vital resources for daily survival. This, in turn enables, the rest of society to focus on developing reliable prevention measures and ultimately a vaccine. Within the grocery industry, independent grocers are playing an especially critical role and, in many cases, are the primary food source for less-densely populated areas.
Expanding online offerings, click-and-collect, delivery, curbside pick-up and shop-by-phone can consume managerial time and resources. However it is still crucial to execute basic measures to keep employees the community and partners/vendors safe.
Our mission at Local Express is to help our retailers succeed and prosper. The following Best Practices will help independent grocers, bakers, beverage sellers and more operate safely through the pandemic:
- Frontline employees are looking for strong leadership and clear direction. Proactively educate team members on safety and hygiene practices, including proper handwashing, food safety, and transmission prevention. Additional Resources – CDC: Protect Yourself & Others – FDA: Food Safety & Coronavirus.
- Ensure high traffic areas, i.e., grocery carts, register belts, credit card keypads, etc., are disinfected on a constant basis. Post a rotating schedule so shift managers and supervisors can verify that this task is completed several times throughout the day. Provide hand sanitizer and/or sanitizing wipes near shopping carts and doors. Please refer to the CDC cleaning guidelines below – CDC Cleaning Guideline.
- Shoppers need to know that their safety is taken seriously. Help them feel assured by communicating safety standards via in-store signage. Prompt social distancing with non-slip tape on the floor to keep customers adequately spaced.
- Share details about vendors, supply chain information and partnerships, and social media. Emphasize to team members that they need to vigilantly practice social distancing. Post signage with specific, relevant information, ex., “there is no evidence to support the transmission of COVID-19 associated with imported Reassure shoppers that food imported to the United States from China and other countries.”
- Install contingency plans in the event team members become ill or test positive for COVID-19, including a pre-drafted statement for social media. Review employee health policies update sick leave and paid-time-off policies regarding COVID-19, update employees with regards to all changes. Review to identify hard-to-cover positions and develop OJT and cross-training.
- Provide appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) to include gloves, 3-ply surgical masks, and safety shields for cashiers. Set guidelines for team members cloth face coverings if procuring enough PPE is not possible.
- Proactively coordinate with vendors throughout the supply chain to anticipate availability issues around certain high-demand SKUs, such as toilet paper, cleaning products, milk, eggs, bread, and water. Consider purchasing limits on high-demand items, work with vendors to facilitate cooperation, and ensure the highest percentage of shoppers can secure the items they need. Ensure WIC and SNAP shoppers can take advantage of all click-and-collect, delivery, and curbside pickup options.
- Review and update procedures for check-in and receiving to minimize as much contact as possible between delivery drivers, warehouse personnel, and store employees.