Food City CEO Steve Smith said Tuesday that Food City could stay open seven days a week for the foreseeable future. As an essential business, grocery stores such as Food City supply critical resources to citizens. However, these items are not limitless, and the CEO asked for customers to refrain from “panic buying,” assuring them that grocery stores would not run out of food.
“Responding to that fear is ironically the leading contributor to these shortages,” said Mr.
Smith. “We’d like to stress how critical it is for our customers not to horde items, but only to buy what you need for the coming week, and give the supply chain time to catch up with the demand.”
While he said Food City has always valued being a clean store, he said that like every other business, cleanliness and sanitation are of the utmost importance during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the CEO did not address the issue of social distancing within the store.
“We get extremely high marks from our customers on the cleanliness of our stores,” said the CEO. “Now, we’ve redoubled our efforts because we know people are nervous. We’re going to make sure we do everything possible to ensure the buggies are clean and that surfaces that are touched often are wiped down many times a day.”
“There is absolutely no evidence of food or food packaging being involved in the transmission of the virus. This is not a food-borne illness, and it is not known to be transferred via food.”
Mr. Smith also announced that the company is changing the healthcare policies for workers., saying “We have done away with some copays if someone needs to get tested or see the doctor for a possibility of having the virus. We’ve also done away with our copay on the tele-medicine and the tele-doc, where they can do that without paying the $10 copay.”
Toilet paper and hand sanitizer, or the lack thereof, has been a talking point in recent weeks. Mr. Smith said that there is no way to guarantee that each customer will be able to buy those items whenever they shop, but that the company is taking steps to alleviate the problem as much as possible.
“I can tell you that we get toilet paper and paper towels and paper products delivered every single day to our distribution centers,” said Mr. Smith. “Now we’ve told our stores not to order paper products, sanitizer, or disinfectants. When we get those items, we will allocate those out to our stores in a fair way.”
The same could be said for many of the food items in the store. Mr. Smith said Food City is cutting back on providing as many flavors or types of a particular product, instead focusing on providing a standard version in bulk. Even with this new strategy, some customers may have difficulty finding certain items for an unspecified amount of time.
“I don’t know what challenges there will be, I know that there will,” said Mr. Smith on issues the company may face in the future. “I think you’re going to look at weeks, if not months, of challenges to get the supply chain back in order. Milk and bread are challenges because of the spikes, and we’re certainly working with every supplier we can find to keep those items in stock.”
Food City is also looking to other suppliers at this time to help get food into the stores. The CEO said that the company is even looking to work with suppliers who normally work with restaurants. While Mr. Smith said more and more people are shopping at grocery stores as restaurants close down during the pandemic, he said Food City will not associate with price-gouging.
“It’s unbelievable that people would do that at this point in time,” said Mr. Smith. “I can tell you first-hand that we’ve had some suppliers that have come to us, which we’ve never done business with, and they say they’ve got “X” or they’ve got “Y.” And we know what the market should be and if they’re not in that market, we’re going to tell them to take their product and put it somewhere else.”
Mr. Smith also asked for younger customers to refrain from shopping from 7:00 to 8:00 a.m in the morning, with that hour set aside for elderly customers who do not wish to shop around larger crowds.