Grocery Stores on Frontlines Retool to Keep Customers, Shoppers Safe

Giant Foods retools to protect customers and employees.

ANDOVER, MD — Like so many essential workers, Ira Kress, President of Giant Foods says his team retooled under the pandemic to keep customers and employees safe, while keeping the food supply chain open for residents in the Washington DC area.

“It’s been, in a word, crazy, as we’ve all seen and the world around us has continued to respond and evolve to this health crisis,” Kress told 104.7 WONK FM’s Jen Richer. “We went into this, like many, not knowing a lot [about] the disease, how it transmitted, and we placed a lot of our focus on what the CDC was recommending, and we literally wrote the playbook as we went along.”

That playbook has managed to keep the doors open for customers during an unprecedented time of crisis, asking store employees to in many ways serve on the frontlines of the pandemic.

“We knew that going in we had a huge responsibility as a supermarket, and certainly as a supermarket serving communities in this metropolitan marketplace that we are very privileged to serve, to do just that. People needed food,” Kress said.

Yet, with so many unknowns when it comes to how COVID-19 was transmitted, the supermarket took steps to slow its spread.

“What started out as high sanitation efforts, really grew quickly to the very environment our customers are seeing today with the plexiglass dividers at our registers and our service desks and pharmacy counters, and we implemented senior and immune compromised hours for those individuals to shop at our stores when there are the least crowds and it’s the most sanitized,” Kress explained.

Meanwhile, the supermarket launched a shopable website to minimize in-store contact. Customers can shop through the digital circular or by item, and have groceries ready for pickup in the store, or delivered to their home.

“We have had the Giant Food Website for a very long time, but we have also operated with a delivery business called Peapod, that was originally a stand alone business, and up until June, you had to shop us via a different web interactions. This all new website that we launched on June 23rd, really brings the power of all of e-commerce channels into one location,” Kress said.

While most Americans are taking time under the pandemic to re-evaluate their current habits and behaviors, Kress has noticed an uptick in customers taking advantage of the store’s nutritionist services. “[The nutritionists] will do everything from one-on-one to group consultations, they are licensed nutritionists, so anything you would go to your healthcare provider for and get a nutritionist referral to, they are ready, willing, and very much able to provide,” Kress said.

The nutritionist program, like many, has also adapted under the pandemic. “They’ve been really creative in doing so, they’ve created podcasts, a host of workshops and series for a broad group of customers,” Kress described.

Those services can be found at

Listen to the full interview with 104.7 WONK FM’s Jen Richer here:

Ira Kress

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