Grocers work to meet high demand in Houston area

There’s no need to bum-rush the grocery stores. That was the message from Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner Monday morning at a press conference with executives from Kroger, HEB and Randalls. 

We’ve all seen photos of the empty stores shelves and long lines of customers trying to get enough items in case of a coronavirus quarantine.

Well the grocers wanted to give some insight not only on their inventory but also on their reaction to the virus.

RELATED: H-E-B, Randalls, Kroger cut store hours due to COVID-19 scare

“This sneeze guard shield will separate the checker from customers,” said Scott McClelland, president of HEB, holding up a clear plastic shield.

HEB is adding sneeze guard shields at checkout and cart sanitizers for shoppers and also making sure the hottest items in stores are fully stocked, he announced.

“Our demand has surged,” said McClelland. “The good news is we’re rolling a lot of trucks. Last night we had 1,300 trucks roll to our stores throughout Texas, and tomorrow we’ll have 1,300 trucks or more.”

Kroger and Randalls announced they are doing the same.

“Our distribution teams are working around the clock,” said Christy Lara from Randalls. “Many of our suppliers and manufacturers have added shifts to meet the demand.”

“Grocery stores are not shutting down,” said Turner.

The mayor held the press conference to ease the nerves of frantic shoppers who have emptied many store shelves in the past week—and to let people know the grocers are hiring.

“Day workers for example who may be losing business—I mean losing their jobs or may be laid off temporarily—hey, the grocery stores—the chains—they are hiring,” said Turner.

“We would love anyone in need of a job to join our team—anyone,” said Joe Kelley, Houston division president of Kroger.

Stores are also shifting some focus away from less important departments to fit customer demand.

“We’ve shut down our floral departments effective last week,” said McClelland. “We’ll probably look at shutting down other departments that are nice to have and shifting those personnel into our e-commerce business so that we can add capacity into that area.”

The grocery executives said they are focusing on limiting the number of customers inside stores help prevent spreading a virus, and they’re telling shoppers.. if you don’t feel well, don’t go to the grocery store. E-commerce is an option.