Rebuilding America: Grocery stores quickly adapting to new social, cleaning norms
Words that were foreign to us three months ago.
One-way traffic in our grocery stores, herding us through the isles like highways taking us to our destinations. Six-foot distancing stickers on the floor to guide us and remind us.
And wearing facemasks? Not long ago, that alerted authorities to a potential robbery. Now, grocery stores and other businesses strongly encourage customers to wear masks when inside their stores.
Yes, times have changed, no thanks to COVID-19.
The lake’s grocery stores, deemed “essential” by health departments and the Center for Disease Control, adapted quickly to helping slow the spread of the coronavirus.
HyVee was among the first to input measures to help protect the health of customers and employees.
Store Director Larry Sandal pointed out these health-protecting measures in his store:
•All carts are sanitized before use by customers and placed in a separate area inside the front doors. An employee is always stationed at the front door to help regulate traffic and keep the carts sanitized.
•Entrances are metered to allow no more than 10 percent capacity.
•Employees wear masks. Customer use of masks is left to the discretion of the customer.
•One-way arrows have been placed around the store to minimize close contact among customers and to help with customer flow throughout the store.
•Six-foot social distances stickers help customers keep their carts two cart-widths apart.
•Sneeze shields have been placed at the checkout counters; checkout personnel sanitize the food conveyor belts between customers.
•Hand sanitizer is available at checkout for both customers and employees.
•HyVee created a drive-through customer pickup area in its parking lot to help improve traffic flow in and around the store.
What about the unusual supply problems – especially paper products – that have plagued not only HyVee but nearly every grocery or convenience store in the area?
Corporate HyVee is doing all it can to source products to its stores. The supply of products has nothing to do with ordering, he said.
“We’re doing all we can corporately and locally to provided products to our customers,” he explained.
One positive outgrowth of dealing with COVID-19 is HyVee’s hiring of more lake-area students and teachers. Sandal said there have been no hiring challenges. In fact, online grocery sales and curbside pickup have blossomed, creating a need for more employees.
“It’s been part of our community outreach program for seasonal workers,” he said. “What better way to help the community than to help the people who teach our youth.”
And what’s ahead?
Sandal said he anticipates customers will continue to use the store’s online ordering service. He also said the sanitizing of carts will continue unabated.
“It’s the perfect service we can provide for our customers now and in the future,” he said.
HyVee has designated part of its corporate website (HyVee.com) to its evolving dealings with COVID-19 if you need more information.
Dierbergs Lakeview Point in Osage Beach, while mirroring other grocery and retail businesses as far as social distancing and gathering guidelines, has taken a different approach to ensuring customer and employee health.
As customers enter the store they are greeted by a sign encouraging them to wash their hands at a special handwashing station. It’s not mandatory, but most customers take the extra few minutes of protection. Like HyVee, Dierbergs has implemented a one-way entrance into and exit from its store.
The St. Louis-based, family-owned chain has a timeline on its corporate website of what stores have done since mid-March.
For the safety of customers and associates, Dierbergs implemented a series of steps for a safe and clean shopping experience. These include:
•Sanitizing commonly used areas more often, including cashier stations, self-checkouts, credit card terminals, conveyor belts and door handles.
•Providing customers with free disinfectant wipes at store entrances to sanitize their shopping carts or baskets.
•Offering hand sanitizer, sanitizing wipes and convenient access to bathrooms for hand washing for both associates and customers.
•Communicating with associates to follow precautionary measures such as avoiding touching their eyes, nose, and mouth; exercise appropriate controls when sneezing or coughing and wash their hands frequently to avoid transmission of germs.
•Asking associates not to report to work if they are experiencing flu like symptoms or a cough, fever, or shortness of breath.
Dierbergs has experienced a shortage of some products as other grocery stores have.
“We are diligently working with suppliers to ensure that the food, medicine and cleaning supplies are reaching our stores as quickly as possible,” the Dierbergs website explains. “Additionally, to maximize the opportunity for customers to have access to certain items, we have taken the precautionary step to limit the number of cleaning, sanitary, and paper products per order.”
Also, like HyVee, Dierbergs offers curbside pickup and delivery.
Dierbergs has also set up a coronavirus customer help line for customers. The company also has additional COVID-19 information on its corporate website, dierbergs.com.
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