“It’s somewhat the new normal,” Food City CEO talks shortages, sanitation and the changing landscape of the supermarket industry

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Chain looking to fill 2,500 positions in light of heightened business

(WJHL) – It’s been a whirlwind of a week for the supermarket world, and it doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon.

Food City President and Chief Executive Officer Steve Smith said employees have been in overdrive at each of the chain’s 123 stores across the region, and said the chain is working to restock the shelves and hiring extra personnel.

“I do think it’s somewhat the new normal,” he said in a video press conference call Tuesday, admitting that stores are having to play “a little catch-up.”

He said last week’s sales showed demand in non-perishable goods like paper products and canned goods, but the tides have turned this week as shoppers seem to be clearing perishable meats and produce from the shelves.

Food City is looking to add about 2,500 associates to its ranks in response to the spike in demand, Smith added, adding that restocking efforts are underway after a federal mandate eased restrictions for truckers to allow them to work longer hours.

On Food City’s end, Smith said the chain has regrouped employees to meet the high demand for products.

“This week, we’ve added 80 people from our retail stores,” he said. “They’re training to become warehouse pickers in our dry warehouse and our perishable warehouse to be able to get those products to our stores more efficiently.”

He said that associates are doubling down on sanitation efforts in order to protect customers.

He estimated that most stores are out of hand sanitizer and some cleaning supplies to sell, and while orders have been placed, he didn’t know when they would be filled.

He said that paper products are coming in “sporadically,” though he said he thinks manufacturers will change up production from the usual.

Smith said people shouldn’t be hoarding products and urges the public to shop “in normal shopping patterns” in order to get the supply chain caught up and shelves stocked back up with items.

“We may see a few less varieties or selection of items, but we’ll have those items in greater quantities and hopefully we’ll have them faster by doing that,” he said.

Earlier on Tuesday, Smith announced that Food City locations across the region would be dedicating the first hour of operation from 7 to 8 a.m. to adults over 65 or anyone who would be susceptible to serious illness from the novel coronavirus. The stores will also be operating on a temporary, modified daily schedule of 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Smith added that because employees are exposed to the virus every day at work, all testing and doctor’s appointments associated with COVID-19 testing would be “paid for,” and said employees that are diagnosed will receive benefits.

“In the unlikely event that someone is diagnosed, those benefits will start from day 1 that they miss work, which is a little exception, it usually takes a week for those short-term benefits to kick in,” Smith said.

Smith did not elaborate on what kind of benefits employees would receive if they are diagnosed with COVID-19 or if both full and part-time employees would be covered.

For more of our continuing COVID-19 coverage, click HERE.

COVID-19 is the disease caused by a novel coronavirus first detected in humans in Wuhan, China, in late 2019. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the first symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, cough and shortness of breath 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. 

Severe symptoms that require immediate medical attention include difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or inability to arouse and bluish lips or face. Stay up-to-date with guidelines from the CDC and The World Health Organization.

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