H-E-B, a grocery chain based out of Texas, has made headlines following their quick and efficient response to COVID-19. By implementing their pandemic and influenza plan early, and utilizing their Emergency Operations Center, H-E-B is wowing customers and employees alike. Here are some highlights on why their response has been so well received:
H-E-B started watching news on COVID-19 in January and implemented their response plan in February.
By watching the trends abroad, H-E-B was able to understand how the virus might impact daily life in the United States. This isn’t the first time they have taken this proactive approach either. They first utilized the process in 2005 for H5N1 and again in 2009 for H1N1, not to mention the times they have used the plan in response to hurricanes in the area.
The president of H-E-B, Craig Boyan, says “We are constantly in a year-round state of preparedness for different emergencies. We keep emergency supplies at almost every warehouse and … make sure that we are ready to [react quickly] when a crisis emerges, whether it be a hurricane or a pandemic.”
H-E-B knew COVID-19 could not only impact their supply chain, but it could also impact their employees’ health and wellbeing.
Starting in February, H-E-B made the decision to reduce their store hours so employees could have more time to restock the shelves and be better prepared to serve the community. They have also taken extraordinary measures to make sure they had enough people to staff the overly busy stores – by asking corporate employees if they would like to volunteer for positions in grocery stores and warehouses. The response? Over 800 corporate employees are now working in grocery and warehouse positions to keep operations running smoothly.
A customer of the grocery chain, Stephanie Lowe, says “I met Alma, who … answered the ‘all hands on deck’ call and was working checkout for the first time in years and she was so excited… It was such a positive interaction in the midst of organized chaos, and I have thought about it throughout the week at work when things have been stressful.”
H-E-B recognized innovation and flexibility were keys to succeeding during the challenges created by COVID-19.
Even with a response plan and a dedicated team of individuals to help manage operations during an emergency, H-E-B knew they would have to do more to stay stocked during the pandemic. Their solution? Partnering with local businesses to aid in transportation and delivery. Examples of these new partnerships include Labatt Food Services, a restaurant food distributor, that is now supplying the grocery with products and a beer distributor that is delivering eggs to H-E-B stores.
Blair Labatt, president of Labatt Food Services, says, “It’s inspiring to see people rally around and meet a crisis. It’s uplifting to see people cooperate, and energizing to see that all happen. The whole process has been one huge unified response.”
Read the full article from TexasMonthly here.