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Melissa Kenny describes how area groceries, including her family’s six ShopRite stores, are working together to provide safe and healthy shopping experiences for everyone

Stay-at-home protocols have presented challenges for every household in Delaware, including understanding and following the best practices for grocery shopping.

On that note, and in continuing with our series of COVID-19 response, the Out & About staff felt it would be important to our readers to know how area groceries are adapting to the challenges posed the pandemic.

This week we spoke with Melissa Kenny, executive vice president at Kenny Family ShopRites of Delaware, which operates six stores in our area. She was steadfast about meeting the rising expectations presented currently, but also optimistic about unforeseen silver linings that have come about through the process of meeting those demands.

“We have never worked more closely with our competitors than we are right now, with Giant, Albertsons, Walgreens, CVS, and others via Julie MiroWenger at the Food Industry Council,” Kenny says.

“I think that it should bring some comfort to people to know that, if we find a way to do something better, we’re sharing it with all of our fellow retailers and competitors, so that we all navigate this together and serve the community best,” Kenny adds. “It’s been very valuable to collaborate, instead of always competing.”

Kenny also notes that the challenges her stores face have also generated a sense of pride and camaraderie within the workforce.

“It’s rewarding to know that the work we’re doing is making a difference,” Kenny says. “That mitigates the pressure and the stress of upping your game in ways you didn’t know you would have to do so quickly and so soon.

“But the reward is so much greater when you see the difference that you’re making, and when people take a minute and thank you – the kindnesses that we’ve seen, from the community to our associates on the front line.

“There’s such a shift in terms of how people treated grocery clerks prior to this experience versus now, that they realize the sacrifices they make and how critical their work is, even though it is not always celebrated. Seeing the associates experience that reward of knowing that their work is meaningful, and knowing that people are counting on them to do their work, and that [our customers] are grateful and recognizing it. That is really motivating and inspiring.

“So even when it gets hard, you’re like, ‘But this is so important. Let’s figure it out. And let’s work harder and let’s stay later. And let’s try it again.’ Because it matters. It matters a lot.”

Below are Kenny’s written responses to other questions we asked regarding additional precautions and possible customer concerns.

 

1: These are certainly challenging times for everyone. What is the most important thing you want the public to know about how your stores are responding locally to the challenges posed by COVID-19?

  • This is an evolving situation, and we are working hard to keep up with all new City, State and Federal guidance as it is issued. We have designated a member of our Executive Staff, Cassandra Umile R.D., to focus exclusively on this critical task.
  • Our store teams are working tirelessly to keep our shelves well stocked, assist shoppers and provide a safe shopping experience, online and in-store; please be patient as we do our best to continue to serve our community through these challenging and unprecedented circumstances.

 

2: What additional precautions have you had to implement at your stores to ensure safety?

  • Installed protective plexi-glass shields at all points of sale.
  • Floor markings spaced six feet apart at points of sale and designating one-way traffic flow throughout aisles to guide and encourage social distancing.
  • Every other register being used to keep cashiers and customers 6 feet apart.
  • Reminders broadcasting every 15 minutes via in-store public announcement systems to promote mindfulness and reinforce social distancing.
  • Limiting store to 20% capacity.
  • Reduced daily shopping hours in order to allow more time for deep cleaning and restocking overnight.
  • Introduced senior (65+) and high-risk shopping hour from 6am-7am every morning.
  • Increased cleaning frequency by third party cleaning specialists to clean overnight and/or as needed.
  • Make face masks mandatory for store teams.
  • Customer service attendant assigned exclusively to clean carts for every shopper at each of our store entrances.
  • Instituted curbside pick-up and delivery services for all pharmacy customers.
  • Temporarily suspended self-service kiosks throughout all stores (salad bars, olive bars, coffee stations etc).
  • Expanded online shopping capacity to serve online orders, via ShopRite from Home and Instacart.

 

3: Should shoppers be concerned about possible failures in the supply chain?

  • The supply chain is experiencing complex challenges nationwide, and we are working diligently to be strong partners and support their efforts to maintain the best possible service levels during this pandemic. We are very grateful to all the businesses who are finding creative ways to jump in and support us, such as Delaware’s own Dogfish Head Brewery for their production and distribution of sanitizer for essential employees. Teamwork, flexibility and patience are key at every level from manufacturer to consumer

 

4: What are some protocols that shoppers could be following to make things safer at stores? What about at home?

At store:

  • Shopping alone to reduce store crowding.
  • Wear a face covering while shopping.
  • If wearing disposable masks and/or gloves throw them out in a trash can.
  • Practice safe social distancing with other customers and associates.
  • Only shop when needed, not to just get out of the house. Plan carefully and prepare a shopping list for every trip to minimize time in store and be as efficient as possible.

At home:

  • Wash cloth face coverings.
  • Leave your shoes at the door.
  • Wash hands for 20 seconds before and after shopping.
  • Unload groceries in one area.

 

5: Are you implementing any additional protocols at your stores that are unique to the area?

  • We are members of the Delaware Retail Food Industry Council and National Grocers Association, which are facilitating constant conversations for us with our fellow retailers and independent grocers in Delaware and nationwide respectively to collaborate and share best practices rather than compete regarding public safety – WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER!
So, what do you think? Please comment below.