The number of cases of Covid-19 continue to increase across the United States daily and while some industries are at a virtual standstill, the grocery industry is hard-pressed to keep up with consumer demand. While California-based Instacart is planning to hire 300,000 people nationwide, Western grocers Smart & Final, Superior Grocers and Albertsons Cos. are making changes in response to the public health crisis.
Instacart plans to hire 300,000 over next 3 months
San Francisco-based Instacart, an online grocery delivery company, is planning to bring on an additional 300,000 full-service shoppers over the next three months to meet the growing customer demand for grocery delivery and pickup in North America.
In the last few weeks, the company has seen order volume grow by more than 150 percent year-over-year, with average customer basket size also increasing by 15 percent. By more than doubling the size of its full-service shopper community, Instacart will be better positioned to meet this increase in customer demand across North America.
“The last few weeks have been the busiest in Instacart’s history, and our teams are working around the clock to reliably and safely serve all members of our community. Instacart shoppers have stepped up as household heroes for families, grandparents, and people in need coast-to-coast,” said Apoorva Mehta, founder and CEO. “We expect to see continued customer demand and, as a result, we’re opening up 300,000 more full-service shopper roles across North America. As more people look for immediate, flexible earnings opportunities during this time, we hope that Instacart can be an additional source of income for those looking to earn while also delivering for the communities in which they live.”
Instacart plans to bring on shoppers from across North America, where it operates in more than 5,500 cities. Some of the largest areas of opportunity and the number of new shoppers include:
- New York—27,000;
- New Jersey—12,000;
- Georgia—9,000; and
“U.S. grocers have served as the backbone of the communities they operate in for decades. Now, more than ever, they provide a critical service for Americans confined to their homes and in need of the basic necessities amid the spread of Covid-19,” said Suzanne Clark, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “Instacart is serving as a critical lifeline for millions of people and hundreds of businesses during these uncertain times. They’re not only connecting people from all 50 states to the groceries and goods they so desperately need, but they’re also stepping in to support the economy by unlocking much-needed earnings opportunities for hundreds of thousands of people who can no longer rely on their previous incomes.”
As independent contractors, Instacart shoppers join the platform for different reasons and play many roles outside of being a shopper—they are parents, entrepreneurs, students and more. Last year, Instacart launched a set of exclusive perks that offer shoppers additional support and resources they need. These include shopper injury protection, a comprehensive insurance plan that covers shoppers in the event of an accident while shopping or delivering with Instacart; access to the Stride Benefits Platform, providing a suite of health and finance options including the ability to purchase health insurance; a Care.com membership for child or family care; and access to Peanut Butter, a student loan assistance program.
Instacart is actively working with local and national authorities to monitor Covid-19 as it evolves and is adhering to recommendations from public health officials to ensure the company is operating reliably, while also taking the appropriate precautionary measures to keep the entire Instacart community safe. In addition to bringing on more new shoppers to best serve customers, Instacart also has introduced a number of guidelines, resources, and new product features to further support the health and safety of all Instacart shoppers, including: prioritizing the health and safety of the shopper community; new shopper health and safety guidelines; sick pay for in-store shoppers; extended pay for part-time employees and full-service shoppers affected by Covid-19; health and safety supplies for shoppers; “Leave at My Door Delivery;” ratings forgiveness; canceling batches made easier; automatically canceling out-of-stock orders; and mobile checkout available everywhere.
Smart & Final updates actions to protect health, wellness of communities
During this unprecedented time of demand that is affecting the entire grocery industry, Smart & Final is taking every measure to keep their stores fully staffed and stocked and is acting with the health of its associates and customers in mind.
As the situation surrounding coronavirus continues to evolve, Smart & Final CEO and President Dave Hirz has released an open letter to keep its customers informed of company efforts to support its communities during this time.
“At Smart & Final we take our role to serve our customers and associates seriously, and we continue to adapt to the changing circumstances,” Hirz stated. “Nothing is more important than the health and well-being of our associates and the communities we serve.”
To that end, Smart & Finals has done the following:
- Extended store hours to provide a dedicated time at 7:30 a.m. every day to allow seniors, expectant mothers and customers with disabilities an opportunity to shop before the store opens to the public.
- Adjusted store hours to 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. to ensure associates have more time to clean and restock.
- Managed the flow of traffic into stores and staggered our checkout traffic as needed to maintain social distancing, and to allow for a better shopping experience.
- Asked customers to follow CDC guidelines for social distancing while they are in the stores and parking lots.
- Have staff conduct cleanings at the top of every hour, adhering to a thorough cleaning protocol with a focus on checkstands, pin-pads and other high- frequency touchpoints.
- Limited purchases on some fast-selling items in an effort to ensure that stores can satisfy as many of customers as possible.
“Our supply chain is robust, and we have deliveries being made to our stores daily. We ask that our customers be considerate of others, and only purchase what they need,” Hirz stated.
Hirz said the company is “truly indebted” to its associates for going above and beyond to serve their customers. In appreciation for their efforts, Smart & Finals is providing a $2.25 per hour increase to the compensation of all regular store associates, retroactively to March 9 and lasting until April 5.
To give associates a break and to help with cleaning and stocking, Smart & Finals is hiring temporary associates in its stores and distribution centers.
“We are grateful to be in a position to help those affected by job loss in other industries,” Hirz stated. “We’ve hired more than 750 new employees in just six days, and we are continuing to welcome individuals with a desire to help their communities until their affected businesses recover.
“We recognize the trust you are placing in us during this uncertain period. We have been humbled by our associates’ positive attitudes, willingness to work additional hours and compassion for the communities they serve.
“We wish you health and wellness,” Hirz stated.
Superior Grocers hourly employees will receive a $2/hour wage increase
Associates at Superior Grocers stores are working to replenish their shelves during extreme demands due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Effective March 23, Superior Grocers will be increasing store hourly employees temporarily by $2 per hour for the next four weeks.
“We know our employees are what make us superior, and we are happy to be able to do this because of what they have been able to accomplish. We are extremely fortunate to have you as part of our team and feel this increase is well deserved. We thank you again for your contribution and dedication to Superior Grocers,” said Superior Grocers President Richard Wardwell.
Santa Fe Springs, California-based Superior Grocers is open daily from 8 a.m.-7 p.m. and has reserved the hour of 7-8 a.m. for seniors 65 and older and the disabled.
Albertsons Cos installing Plexiglas, implementing social distancing, hiring
As an added precaution during the ongoing Covid-19 outbreak, Boise, Idaho-based Albertsons Cos. is installing Plexiglas in its checkout lanes as a protective barrier between customers and checkers. The Plexiglas “sneeze guards” will be installed in the company’s 2,200-plus stores over the next two weeks, with many locations being complete in the next several days.
“We recognize that we provide an essential service to our communities,” said Vivek Sankaran, president and CEO. “We are doing everything we can to provide a safe, secure and comfortable shopping space for our valued customers. This is an extra step to protect our associates who are in constant contact with the public and provide our customers with extra reassurance as well.”
In addition to the installation of Plexiglas, the stores have taken a number of precautions, including:
- Pausing self-service operations like soup bars, wing bars and salad bars.
- Enhancing measures to clean and disinfect all departments, restrooms and other high-touch points of the store throughout the day, as well as a deep cleanse at the end of each business day. Cart wipes and hand sanitizer stations continue to be available at key locations within the store for customers’ convenience.
- Asking associates to follow CDC guidelines, wash hands frequently and stay home if they feel sick.
- Reserving special times for seniors and other vulnerable shoppers who must leave home to obtain their groceries, unless otherwise locally mandated. The company is asking non-seniors and non-at-risk shoppers to avoid shopping at these times.
The company also has begun implementing social distancing protocols across all its stores. The goal with the protocol throughout the store is to follow guidance from the CDC to prevent customers from being within six feet of any other person for more than 10 minutes. Customers should see changes continue over the next week.
“Social distancing can make a significant difference in our communities as we face this pandemic,” Sankaran said. “Our stores are following the guidance from the CDC with regard to regular hand washing and enhanced cleaning and sanitization protocols. We believe that the next step toward helping slow and contain the Covid-19 virus is by reinforcing proper social distancing whenever possible.”
The company is installing designated waiting points through floor markers positioned throughout the store, especially at check stands and stations where people most often congregate, like the service deli, bakeries and pharmacy areas. Customers also will be asked to wait until the customer in front of them has finished collecting their groceries before unloading their groceries at the check stand.
“We have seen our customers begin to implement social distancing on their own with our ‘two carts apart’ reminders as they shop our stores, so we think our floor markers will increase awareness,” Sankaran said. “We know that with our customers’ help, along with other safety measures we have implemented in our stores, we can create safer environments and help our communities contain the spread of this contagious disease.”
Albertsons Cos. partners with major businesses to offer part-time jobs to furloughed employees
Throughout the country, businesses have been forced to close or scale back operations, furlough employees or reduce hours due to the Covid-19 crisis. Albertsons Cos. says it is in a unique position to help and is partnering with major companies to provide part-time jobs to their employees who have been furloughed or had their hours cut.
“The most valuable asset and the core of any business is people, and we are working hard with many human resource teams across a variety of businesses who are actively defining next steps for their employees,” Sankaran said. “So many businesses in the hospitality and retail sectors are scaling back hours or temporarily closing as their customers remain home and adhere to shelter-in-place orders. We are grateful to be a resource to help fill a critical need in our own business and take care of people who want to continue working during this time of national emergency.”
Supermarket companies are considered “critical infrastructure” according to the federal government and are required to operate during the crisis. To respond to that requirement, Albertsons Cos. is immediately hiring 30,000 new associates. The company fully understands and appreciates that most people will return to their previous jobs when the crisis is over, and the company and partner employers are fully supportive of the other’s efforts to keep people working.
Currently, Albertsons Cos. has secured partnerships with 17 companies, some of which include: ASM Global, BJ’s Restaurants, G6 Hospitality, Hilton, Inspire Brands, Marriott International, MGM Resorts and Regal Cinemas.
Dedicated application sites have been established for employees from participating companies. The partner companies will provide links when they notify their employees about the opportunity for part-time employment with Albertsons Cos.
Albertsons Cos. is one of the largest food and drug retailers in the United States. It operates stores across 34 states and the District of Columbia under 20 banners including Albertsons, Safeway, Vons, Jewel-Osco, Shaw’s, Acme, Tom Thumb, Randalls, United Supermarkets, Pavilions, Star Market, Haggen and Carrs.