Now hiring: Grocers respond to increased demands

In order to keep up with increased demands for food and household supplies grocery store chains are ramping up hiring. This is a bit of a silver lining for many who are temporarily unemployed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Radical steps are being taken across the country in response to the coronavirus, especially during the next fifteen days, a period of time the public health professionals view as critical. If you saw the Trump administration’s press briefing with the COVID-19 task force, you know that the next 15 days will likely determine the severity of the spread of the virus across the United States.

We find ourselves in a new normal. Our mobility is restricted in order to protect ourselves and others around us from spreading a virus we may not even know we are carrying. With new restrictions on crowd size and social interactions, restaurants and bars are particularly hard hit. We’re looking at millions of people across the country temporarily cooling their heels at home while the food and beverage industry regroups, at least for the next couple of weeks.

The panic is real for a whole lot of people now faced with new challenges to make rent or mortgage payments, pay utility bills, and keep food on their own tables. Enter an increased demand for labor in grocery store chains and other retail outlets that will remain open in order to furnish the necessities of everyday life. Thanks to increased sales at grocery stores, there is a need to fill job openings that span from stockers to cashiers. Major grocery store chains are the first to announce increased efforts to hire workers in order to keep up with demand.

It makes sense. If restaurants and fast food joints are limiting service to drive-through business and delivery service because dine-in eating is no longer an option, people have to purchase food elsewhere. It would be particularly good if the food and beverage industry workers who find themselves unemployed through no fault of their own are able to find employment in the retail grocery industry. Kroger, the United States’ largest supermarket by revenue, the second-largest general retailer, was one of the first to put out the help wanted notice.

Kroger, which owns multiple chains including Ralphs, Harris Teeter and Fred Meyer, has started to advertise jobs on its website and in emails. Reuters reports that Kroger has immediate openings in “retail stores, manufacturing plants and distribution centers.” On Kroger’s website, some of the open jobs are for cashiers, grocery clerks and pharmacy technicians.

Other chain stores are focusing on specific areas where demand is high. Smaller chain stores are making changes to meet their needs.

Safeway and Albertsons are trying to fill 2,000 open positions in their Washington stores. There are openings for delivery drivers and in-store employees.

Smaller chains are also hiring at the local level. H-E-B has both part-time and full-time positions open in Texas. There are opportunities available in its warehouses and stores. The company has advertised for short-term stockers, customer service assistants and checkers. H-E-B also plans to move some workers to departments that are dealing with higher demand, such as curbside delivery and pick up.

And the big box stores are finding a need to increase hiring, too.

Costco is also hiring to deal with rising demand in its stores. For instance, NBC Los Angeles reports that the Woodland Hills Costco has “an average of 1,300 people waiting” outside when it opens.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner met with store representatives from major grocery chains Monday and reassured local residents that the food supply chain is safe and there are no shutdowns in operations. Some stores may decrease hours of operation but they will not result in closures. Part-time and full-time positions are available from overnight stockers to floor workers to managers and pharmacy technicians.

Houston lagged behind many other big cities in closing restaurants and bars but the mayor and county judge did so Monday afternoon. As of 8:00 a.m. this morning, restaurants and bars are ordered to close for the next fifteen days. Restaurants may offer delivery, pick-up, and drive-thru service but no dine-in service. Some establishments had begun to do this on their own, not waiting for the city and county to make a decision.

We hope all of this is temporary and life can get back to normal as soon as possible. Hopefully, those facing unemployment will find jobs and get by until then. We have to take our silver linings where we can find them these days.