While recent data continues to show a decline in cases of COVID-19 throughout North America, the virus is still dangerous. And if there’s one place where customers must continue to shop, it’s the supermarket. So the question is, what are these grocery stores doing to protect customers while they shop?
6 Smart Steps Supermarkets Are Taking
The term “essential business” gets thrown around a lot these days. But supermarkets are quite literally essential. They have no choice but to continue operating. And here are some of the proactive steps they’re taking to keep employees and customers safe:
1. Sneeze Guards at Checkout Lines
Sneeze guards – the kind you commonly see at buffet lines or the ticket line at a bus station – are now commonplace in thousands of supermarket checkout lines throughout the country.
“The shields are designed to block virus-containing droplets – released by coughing, sneezing and speaking – that might otherwise hit cashiers, who interact with dozens of customers during their shifts,” Reuters explains.
This is merely an additional method of keeping supermarket employees and cashiers safe, as these individuals are in constant contact with customers and are potentially easy targets for contracting the virus.
Most groceries have also gone through the process of shutting down all self-service stations, including soup and salad bars. While this does mean lost revenue, grocery isn’t exactly hurting right now. Business is booming and the prioritization of shopper health means it’ll continue to thrive indefinitely.
2. Increased Delivery and Curbside Pickup
While smaller chains usually don’t have the infrastructure to make it happen, a lot of larger chains are increasing their delivery and curbside options so that customers can buy groceries without having to physically enter the store. This keeps customers safe, including the ones who do enter the store, by minimizing the number of people in the building at one time.
3. UV Light Food Sterilization
UV light has been used in many different food applications over the years. It’s a safe, low maintenance option for eliminating viruses like Salmonella and E. Coli. It’s also used to prevent bug infestations in vegetables and fruits. But most importantly, at least right now, is that it can eliminate many viruses and bacteria.
While there haven’t been studies on the role UV light plays in killing coronavirus droplets yet, these sterilization lights are considered another extra layer of protection at a time when every additional safeguard is worth the investment.
4. Designated Shopping Hours
Supermarkets have had to change their hours around to account for the unique circumstances brought on by the coronavirus. In addition to opening and closing at different times (to provide more time for deep cleaning), some stores are offering special shopping hours for high-risk individuals. This includes elderly individuals and those with pre-existing conditions.
5. Directional Signage
If you’ve been in a supermarket lately, you’ve probably noticed directional signage on the floor. One-way aisles have become commonplace. The objective is to make it easier for people to remain six feet apart (which is hard to do when customers approach each other on a narrow aisle). This is something that’s becoming hard for supermarket managers to enforce, but it’s a nice gesture and makes some shoppers feel safer.
6. Enhanced Employee Training
For employees, one of the more noticeable changes has been the increase in training and equipping sessions. Virtually overnight, workers were forced to change all of their habits and processes. But, for the most part, large chains have done an exceptional job of preparing their employees to serve and interact with customers in a safe and healthy manner that builds trust and cultivates loyalty.
The Way of the Future?
As hard as it is to believe right now, there will come a time when COVID-19 is nothing more than a memory. It’ll be a painful memory, but it’ll be a memory, nonetheless. But even after the virus goes dormant and people no longer face the risk of contracting this deadly disease, we’re going to feel the ramifications in many areas of our lives.
It’s highly likely that some of the techniques that supermarkets (and other businesses) implement during this pandemic will continue to stick around. From sneeze guards to UV lights, these protective methods make too much sense to do away with. As a result, shopping will be safer than ever before.