Reaching out to neighbors in need and keeping employees and customers safe amid the Covid-19 pandemic are priorities for grocery retailers. In the Southwest, H-E-B is helping local restaurants, while Brookshire Grocery Co. and Walmart are adding safety measures.
H-E-B launches program to support Texas restaurants
In the spirit of Texans helping Texans, H-E-B has launched a foodie-inspired pilot program to help restaurants throughout Texas during the coronavirus crisis.
Through the partnerships, select H-E-B stores will sell ready-made meals from restaurant partners. All proceeds from the sales of these chef-prepared meals will go directly to the restaurants.
H-E-B has teamed with some well-known establishments. In San Antonio, H-E-B launched the program, partnering with Max & Louie’s New York Diner, a Jewish deli that’s offering a range of meals such as its matzo ball soup. In about a handful of H-E-B stores in San Antonio, the restaurant told the San Antonio Express-News that the move into stores has allowed ownership to hire back nearly a dozen of its furloughed employees.
“They’ve been an unbelievable partner,” the restaurant’s owner, Drew Glick, told the San Antonio Express-News.
“We are a family of foodies, and we have a deep relationship with lots of restaurants and chefs, so this is something we wanted to do to help in these difficult times,” Dya Campos, H-E-B director of government and public affairs, told the Express-News.
In Houston, H-E-B stores will sell dishes from Cherry Block, a downtown Houston steakhouse and James Beard Award-winning chef Chris Shepherd’s Underbelly Hospitality.
As the program develops, Campos told the Express-News that other potential restaurant partners include San Antonio chef Johnny Hernandez, Rosario’s Mexican Cafe Y Cantina in San Antonio, Fresa’s and Ramen Tatsu-ya in Austin.
Below are a list of restaurant partners and locations where their meals are sold:
Max and Louie’s New York Diner (San Antonio)
Bandera & Loop 1604 H-E-B
Wurzbach/NW Military Hwy H-E-B
San Pedro/Brookhollow H-E-B
Blanco/Loop 1604 H-E-B
Buffalo Spdwy H-E-B
San Felipe H-E-B
Bunker Hill H-E-B
23rd St/Shepherd H-E-B
Pearland-FM 518/Hwy 288 H-E-B
Cherry Block (Houston)
23rd St/Shepherd H-E-B
Buffalo Spdwy H-E-B
League City-Hwy 96/S Shore H-E-B
Brookshire Grocery Co. continues to implement procedures to safeguard employees, customers
Tyler, Texas-based Brookshire Grocery Co.’s (BGC) top priority is the health and safety of its employee-partners and customers. The company has been monitoring the Covid-19 situation since early January and has continued to implement best practices and procedures to adapt its business model to serve during this unprecedented time.
“In order to continue serving our customers and communities, we share in the responsibility of all essential businesses to serve our customers while preventing unnecessary exposures,” said Brad Brookshire, chairman and CEO for BGC. “We have protocols and procedures in place to protect our employees and customers while in our stores. We were prepared for this pandemic and are continuing to evaluate our protocols every day as further expert guidance becomes available.”
As BGC continues to monitor this pandemic, the company is following guidance from the CDC and health authorities. It is communicating with leaders, employees and suppliers to keep them updated on current information and health advisements. BGC continues to roll out initiatives, protocols and procedures daily to help prevent and combat the spread of the virus. These are focused in three main areas—best practices in stores, social distancing and employee-partner resources.
Best practice efforts in stores
BGC continues to take proactive and preventive measures, including sanitation practices beyond its normally stringent standards. Employees conduct deep cleaning and sanitizing of stores and hard surfaces as well as fuel stations throughout the day. BGC has contracted a professional third-party cleaning company to be deployed if a potential exposure has occurred. It has increased the frequency in which employees sanitize surfaces such as shopping carts and baskets, keypads, counter tops, etc. As a standard practice, there are sanitizing wipes available near shopping carts.
The company has provided education and signage in stores for customers and employees, with information for preventative protocols of the CDC for the Covid-19 virus. The company also has suspended the practice of allowing customers to bring reusable bags into its stores.
BGC strongly encourages that the first two hours of operations be reserved as a dedicated time for senior citizens and critical and emergency responders. It is asking for customers’ help in honoring this practice and in moving any senior guests to the front of the check-out line throughout the day.
Social distancing is an effective way to slow the spread and reduce the risk of exposure to the coronavirus. Social distancing is a set of interventions or measures taken to prevent the spread of a contagious disease by maintaining a physical distance between people and reducing the number of times people come into close contact with each other.
BGC has installed decals on the ground at the checkout to help customers practice social distancing and know how much distance to put between themselves and other customers. As an added layer of protection for both its customers and employees, clear partitions have been installed at checkouts. The company also has established a designated social monitor at each store who is trained to ensure sanitation and social distancing procedures are properly followed.
As a designated “Essential Employer” by both federal and state governments, BGC stores continue to remain open for business because their services have been deemed as critical to the infrastructure of the nation. All employees have been told they can wear gloves and masks to work if they choose. BGC has requested employees to increase wellness practices at work and at home to protect themselves, their families and customers in our stores. It also has enacted specific policies and guidelines for the workplace to minimize exposure and potential spread of the virus.
In recognition and gratitude, as the spirit of our employees shines through in this difficult time, BGC already has given a special half-week’s bonus pay, increased wages for those in its stores and logistics, implemented an extra employee discount, provided on-site meals and developed a compensation plan for those who may be directly affected by Covid-19.
BGC has hired more than 1,700 new employees to help serve the increased business in response to Covid-19. These new employees are not only helping the company serve the increased needs of its communities, but they are also allowing the team to take some much needed time off.
The company says it is grateful to be able to employ people in its communities who may have been laid off.
BGC also has developed a tracking system and followed CDC guidelines for dealing with employees possibly exposed to the virus and those who contract the virus. The company also has followed an isolation procedure and protocol for sick or exposed employees in the workplace which includes the special compensation pay for those effected.
Here are a few highlights of BGC’s employee health protocols:
- Wash hands often with soap and water, scrubbing for 20 seconds.
- Use alcohol-based hand sanitizers frequently and thoroughly, rubbing until dry.
- Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue and discard the tissue immediately after use. If you don’t have a tissue, cough/sneeze into the crook of your elbow, not hands.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
- Avoid close contact with others who are sick.
- If you are sick, stay home and avoid contact with others, including pets.
- Increase the frequency of sanitization practices at work and home, disinfecting frequently touched surfaces often.
BGC to offer daily discount for critical, emergency service providers
BGC now is offering a 5 percent daily discount on store brand products for critical and emergency service providers, through May 5, in all four banners it operates—Brookshire’s, Super 1 Foods, Spring Market and Fresh by Brookshire’s. This discount is available for all emergency first responders (EMS, fire department and law enforcement officers), hospital personnel and active-duty military (including National Guard and Military Reserve).
“We believe it is important to show appreciation to those who are serving on the front lines caring for our neighbors,” Brad Brookshire said. “These providers are the pride of our communities, and we want to offer this as a symbol of our gratitude for their service during this time.”
“Supporting first responders and military heroes is a pillar of our Giving Back program and this discount is an extension of our commitment to honoring them for their incredible service,” said Trent Brookshire, chief operating officer for BGC. “BGC is committed to making a difference in the communities we serve. We are forever grateful for these heroes for their dedication and service during these unprecedented times.”
To receive the discount at checkout, critical and emergency service providers must present active first responder, hospital or military identification or name badge.
The store brand discount applies to Brookshire’s, Super 1 Foods and Spring Market branded products, along with Goldenbrook, Pure Harmony, Top Care, Simply Done, Paws, Tippy Toes, Full Circle, CharKing, Wide Awake Coffee Co., Over the Top, That’s Smart and Culinary Tours. Some exclusions apply and may not be combined with other discount offers.
Walmart changes shopping process to encourage social distancing
Bentonville, Arkansas-based Walmart says it cares deeply about its associates’ health and well-being, and in recent weeks has taken steps such as expanding paid leave policies; closing stores overnight for cleanings and restocking; installing sneeze guards and social distance markers in stores; beginning temperature checks; and starting to make gloves and masks available to associates who want them.
While many customers have been following the advice of the medical community regarding social distancing and safety, Walmart says it has been concerned to still see some behaviors in its stores that put undue risk on its people. It is encouraging customers to bring the fewest number of people per family necessary to shop, allow for space with other customers while shopping, and practice social distancing while waiting in lines. The company also says it is seeing states and municipalities set varying policies regarding crowd control—which has created some confusion regarding shopping.
To promote health, safety,and consistency for our associates and customers in this environment, Walmart is taking some further steps for its U.S. stores:
Regulating store entry
It now is limiting the number of customers who can be in a store at once. Stores will now allow no more than five customers for each 1,000 s.f. at a given time, roughly 20 percent of a store’s capacity.
To manage this restriction, the associates at a store will mark a queue at a single-entry door (in most cases the grocery entrance) and direct arriving customers there, where they will be admitted one-by-one and counted. Associates and signage will remind customers of the importance of social distancing while they’re waiting to enter a store—especially before it opens in the morning.
Once a store reaches its capacity, customers will be admitted inside on a “1-out-1-in” basis.
Shopping inside the store
Walmart also will be instituting one-way movement through its aisles in a number of stores, using floor markers and direction from associates. This is expected to help more customers avoid coming into close contact with others as they shop.
The company says it will continue to put signage inside stores to remind customers of the need to maintain social distancing—especially in lines. And once customers check out, they will be directed to exit through a different door than they entered, which should help lessen the instances of people closely passing each other.
“We always want people to feel welcome at Walmart, and we know that in ordinary times a store is a gathering place for members of a community to connect and socialize,” the company says. “We look forward to the time when that is again the case, however, we now want to prioritize health and safety by encouraging customers to do their shopping at a distance from others, then head home.