Three of the industry’s pacesetters separately announced plans to reduce store opening hours and suspend at least some foodservice offerings as they balance surging volume with a need to keep stores clean, in-stock and safe amid a nationwide coronavirus panic.
Communication from H-E-B, Wegmans Food Markets and Publix Super Markets, all of which were released separately, detailed plans to reduce opening hours at some or all of their locations and temporarily suspend service at in-store restaurants and cooking schools. All three characterized the moves as temporary and part of a response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
H-E-B, based in San Antonio, said most of its stores in Houston would be running with reduced hours of 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. beginning March 14.
The retailer said it was also temporarily suspending operations at its in-store restaurants. All True Texas BBQ, Flaming Bird, South Flo Pizza, Table 620, 3009, Oaks Crossing and The Roastery at its Meyerland location would be closed until further notice. “Temporarily closing our restaurants will allow us to continue to focus on serving our customers and replenish products to H-E-B stores,” the company said on its website. “We’ll reopen our restaurants as soon as we’re able.”
Rochester, N.Y.-based Wegmans in a message to shoppers said most of its stores would be operating with reduced hours, providing the retailer with additional time to clean and restock stores. A visit to the Wegmans store in Brooklyn, N.Y., on March 13 revealed blown-out selections of items, including cleaning supplies, canned tuna and refrigerated chicken; workers were busy replenishing the meat supply on the floor.
Foodservice-focused Wegmans said all locations of its Pub in-store restaurants would temporally close, and that it was “limiting options” offered on self-serve bars in-stores, and was suspending services such as cake decoration and catering. Wegmans said stores would have additional packaged options to compensate.
The retailer also released a list of items for which it would limit purchase quantities, including selections in baby, cleaning, bakery and health and wellness departments.
“We understand the vital role our stores play in the communities we serve and will do everything we can to continue our operations with minimal or no interruption,” the company said. “We recognize the heightened concern and are doing everything we can to protect our customers and employees. In uncertain times like these, we must be there for one another. The effects will be far-reaching and, in response, we all need to think sensibly and empathetically.”
Publix on March 14 said all of its stores would close at 8 p.m. until further notice, giving workers time to clean and replenish supplies. Earlier in the week, the retailer said it would be suspending all food samplings and demonstrations in stores.
The retailers also acknowledged a surge in demand for e-commerce and delivery options but noted fulfillment of those services was subject to the same strains on supply in-stores and that many deliveries were delayed.
H-E-B said it would deploy some workers normally working in departments such as bakery to help meet demand for curbside pickup and delivery. Wegmans, which partners with Instacart on pickup and delivery orders in most stores, told customers that time slots for those services were limited.
“We’re seeing an increase in our e-commerce business and expect that demand will continue to grow,” Wegmans said. “Due to high demand, grocery delivery and curbside pickup, times are limited, and in many cases, orders are taking longer to be shopped. We continue to work with Instacart to meet the needs of our customers.”