Food City responds to the coronavirus threat

During a luncheon with local produce growers Thursday at K-VA-T headquarters in Abingdon, Virginia, President and CEO Steven Smith said the various steps are being taken at the company’s Food City grocery stores to address the coronavirus situation.

Smith said Food City’s first priority is the safety of its customers, and the safety of its employees.

“We’ll have to make some changes in how we present food products and how we merchandise food products,” Smith said. “And some of the things you’re used to seeing in our stores. For example, salad bars very shortly will be going away. We’ll replace those with pre-packaged salads. We’re not going to be doing any (food) sampling in our stores for the foreseeable future. You’ll still be able to get salads in our stores. But out of a preponderance of precaution those are some of the things we are going to be doing.”

Smith said yes, there’s obviously been a spike in demand for several items, such as hand sanitizer, disinfectants, bleach, paper products “ ... and the list goes on.”

“I can assure you our merchandisers and our buyers are in ... hourly contact with our suppliers to try and make sure we’re not out of stock,” Smith said. “I don’t know there are going to be items we’re completely out of. There may be momentary outages of certain items. But we will get some in, ship it out (to stores). We’ve got limits put on it so hopefully everybody can get some of the products they want.”

Smith said a lot more people are likely to be eating at home in coming weeks, something the grocery industry hadn’t anticipated prior to the virus. It is not an unprecedented situation, Smith noted, comparing it to 2008-2009 when some situations caused people to eat at home more than they normally had.

“So we’re amping up our inventories, we’re amping up the products we want to have for our folks.”

Smith said the company also has enhanced employee benefits to help offset the impact of the virus, and wants to keep its employees well and able to serve the public who rely on grocery stores.

Smith said Food City takes its role in supplying the public with necessary items very seriously.

“I can assure you we’re going to be working our tails off to make sure that we do the best job we possibly can for our customers,” Smith said.