Over six weeks operating as an essential business in the midst of the conoravirus crisis, the Kroger Co. has learned a few things, and it is now offering guidance to other retail, manufacturing and service businesses as they considering reopening.
The Cincinnati-based grocer this week published a guide of best practices, recommended protocols and other business advice it’s calling a “Blueprint for Businesses," including a downloadable booklet and media assets such as audio safety recordings and social distancing signage.
Kroger said it developed the Blueprint over 36 hours following consultations late last week with U.S. governors and other business groups that had sought its advice in plotting their own reopening. The Blueprint, which Kroger said it would continually update, is part of its response.
CEO Rodney McMullen acknowledged that what worked for Kroger may not work for other businesses but emphasized that leading with “purpose” and exhibiting “transparency, agility and responsiveness” has been a key to how it navigated the crisis. The company, for example, expanded its initial emergency leave guidelines to include employees experiencing symptoms of the virus, and not just those diagnosed. This “was necessary to ensure they felt supported in prioritizing their health and [we] updated our policy as such,” the guide notes.
“While there’s no one thing that makes all the difference, taking a holistic, thoughtful approach to safety will lead to better outcomes,” McMullen said in a video address. “And importantly, working together, we can all support our communities and help reopen businesses safely in America."
Kroger operates nearly 2,800 grocery stores, 35 manufacturing plants, 44 distribution centers and employs 460,000. And with alternative food venues closed or compromised as the pandemic struck, it has experienced booming sales and activity in stores.
“As an essential business, we have led with our 'Purpose': to feed the human spirit, and have taken extensive measures across our footprint to safeguard our associates, customers and supply chain. We are sharing what we’ve learned to help businesses begin to reopen safely and in sync with their respective state plans.”
The Blueprint includes actionable recommendations and learnings that the company has applied in the past six weeks to safeguard its associates, customers and communities, as well as what it has learned through regular interaction with business leaders in other countries, including Italy, Singapore and China—all of which were ahead of the U.S. in terms of the pandemic cycling through their countries.
Patio Furniture on Demand
Separately this week, Kroger entered into an agreement with on-demand shipping company Frayt Inc. to provide same-day, direct-to-consumer delivery on large items such as patio dining sets, grills and mulch from the retailer’s multidepartment Kroger Marketplace stores.
The deal covers 21 Marketplace stores in Cincinnati and Dayton, Ohio, and northern Kentucky.
Customers can request Frayt delivery by downloading the Frayt app and signing up, similar to an on-demand Uber or DoorDash delivery service, Frayt said.
It runs a fleet of networked cargo vans and said it could provide same-day delivery, often within an hour of the request.
With nonessential retailers closed across its Cincinnati-area footprint, Frayt said it pivoted from its traditional business-to-business service model to a consumer facing one. The company described the partnership as a test that could be expanded to additional locations.
“Frayt is the right partnership to help connect our customers with the items they need,” said Erin Rolfes, corporate affairs manager for Kroger's Cincinnati-Dayton division. “Their innovative response to large-item delivery is a great way for our customers to rethink their outdoor space while we’re all spending more time in our homes”