Specialty Food Magazine

Summer 2020

Specialty Food Magazine is the leading publication for retailers, manufacturers and foodservice professionals in the specialty food trade. It provides news, trends and business-building insights that help readers keep their businesses competitive.

Issue link: https://www.e-digitaleditions.com/i/1256204

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Page 37 of 91

Kroger, temporarily went dark, converting some locations to pickup and delivery only. Eventually retailers also began limiting the number of customers per store at any one time, implementing one-way traffic through the aisles and maintaining separation of customers in line at checkout. Posey says Bristol Farms began implementing social distancing protocols early in the crisis and emphasized to its workers that protecting employee and customer safety were to be their top priority. The retailer also made face masks and gloves available to its workers from the beginning of the crisis, and has followed Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for their use. network and have a methodical plan to get back in stock," he says. "Many of the items that we were ordering and receiving were gone even before they hit the shelf." By early April, Bristol Farms had begun to see more consistent distribution and fewer out- of-stocks, he says. Some of the categories that remained challenging included paper products, frozen foods, and baking supplies, although he says the retailer was "starting to gain traction" and reduce out-of-stocks on those items as well. "It was the great relationships that we have always had with our distributors that has allowed us to get ahead of the competition on out-of-stocks and ultimately be able to facilitate the needs of our customers," Posey says. "We have great distributor partners and I appreciate the teamwork and partnership that they have displayed during this time of uncertainty." He says Bristol Farms was also able to maintain staffing levels by shifting workers from foodservice areas of the stores, where sales were declining, to areas of high demand such as grocery, frozen foods, and dairy. "Because we were so fast to react, we were able to stay efficient and keep all of our team members working together towards a common goal to service our communities and help keep our customers safe and calm during their shopping experience," Posey says. Many food manufacturers, meanwhile, also struggled to keep up with the sudden nationwide surge in demand, and in several instances they streamlined their operations to focus on producing only the most popular items in the most popular package sizes. Focusing on Health and Safety At the same time this was happening, retailers and suppliers were also trying to adjust their operations almost daily as new information emerged about how the previously unknown virus was transmitted. Several retailers, including Bristol Farms, as well as larger retailers such as Kroger and Walmart, began installing plastic barriers between customers and cashiers, and many implemented special shopping hours for older customers, who are most vulnerable to suffering the worst effects of the disease. Retailers also significantly ramped up their grocery delivery and click-and-collect capabilities as consumers were increasingly warned to venture out of their homes as little as possible. Some, including Labor Challenges Persist At the Zingerman's family of specialty food businesses in Ann Arbor, Michigan, which include Zingerman's Delicatessen, Zingerman's Bakehouse, Zingerman's Mail Order, and other related operations, the company also has been enforcing strict policies and procedures to protect its workers and customers. That can cause challenges when workers who have a cough or cold need to stay home for a week, says Amy Emberling, managing partner of Zingerman's Bakehouse, the bakery division of the company. "In the bakery and mail order, we're now finding ourselves in the situation of not having quite enough people or quite the right people," she says. "We have some very skilled positions, and for a wide variety of reasons, those people are not all available to work. It's making it a little bit challenging." Many people, Emberling says, may be healthy but are fearful of coming to work because either they or someone they live with may be particularly vulnerable to the disease. Since the company is located only about 45 minutes from Detroit, one of the nation's early hot spots for the spread of the disease, it has created what she described as a "very surreal and scary" environment. The company has significantly altered its operations during the pandemic, including converting its high-volume Zingerman's Deli retail/foodservice operation to curbside pickup and delivery only, and minimizing the flow of foot traffic in the retail bakery. As of early April, however, the company was considering closing its bakery shop to foot traffic as well. In addition, the bakery is asking customers to immediately sanitize their hands before they enter and has posted signs requesting that customers wear SUMMER 2020 27

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