ABINGDON, Virginia (WDEF) – The boss of the leading grocery chain in the Tennessee Valley took questions today about shortages, hording and how they are coping with Coronovirus challenges.
Food City President and CEO Steve Smith admits his chain is facing shortages now, but workers are putting in long days to fix them.
But he assures us that the shortage problem is fixable.
“There are adequate food supplies and those food supplies are going to be safe.”
Smith says this isn’t a supply problem.
He says his company is experiencing two bottlenecks right now.
They are trying to get more supplies shipped to them.
And they are putting more workers on getting those supplies off the trucks and out to their stores.
Smith says the supply chain was timed to deal with the volume they were seeing two weeks ago. But that volume has more than doubled over the last week, with a rush on supermarkets and a move away from restaurants.
He says the President has helped with the shipping problem by easing federal restrictions on driver hours.
Of course, the biggest obstacle now is getting enough paper products made and delivered.
Smith predicts that we’ll see fewer varieties of products as companies make longer runs of their best-sellers.
He says his stores first started selling out of cleansing products which then moved to paper.
But he admits “the toilet paper thing, I can’t really understand.”
Smith compares the last two weeks to a snow scare, where the snow never goes away.
Food City has already moved 80 management trainees out of their stores and into their warehouses to address resupply.
The company is also looking to hire another 2,500 workers as soon as possible.
They have also changed store hours during the crisis.
The new hours will be from 7 AM to 10 PM.
That gives them an extra hour in the morning to cleanse stores.
Food City will then open from 7-8 AM just for senior shoppers and other high risk individuals.
Beginning next Monday, Food City Pharmacies will open earlier at 7 AM.
The earlier closing time will allow store associates more time to unload incoming products.
Smith says each store normally gets a truck a night to unload.
But this week, they are getting two to three trucks a night to unload.
Smith hopes we will all see a difference in the shortages in the days to come, but he won’t make any specific predictions on restocking. He says his people are certainly putting in the hours to pull it off.