HOUSTON - The leader of one of the biggest grocery chains in America is sharing what it’s been like grappling with the COVID-19 crisis over the past couple months.
If you haven’t been in the long lines at grocery stores, emptying the shelves, you’ve seen the photos. It’s been a wild couple of months in the grocery industry.
On Friday, H-E-B President Scott McClelland sat down with a local high school student to share his insight.
“I am honored to be sitting across the screen from Mr. Scott McClelland,” said Jarvis Goosby, who is a senior at Cristo Rey Jesuit College Preparatory School of Houston.
In the new normal for meetings, McClelland shared wisdom about how grocery stores have handled the COVID-19 crisis during a Zoom call with Goosby.
“What prepared H-E-B to handle a situation like this?” Goosby asked.
“I thought Hurricane Harvey was like the apex of my career in terms of disaster management,” said McClelland. “It pales in comparison to this ... Each week we were met with a different crisis we hadn’t expected. You talked about toilet paper. In school, you studied about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and toilet paper is right at the bottom along with food and shelter.”
McClelland said there have been various grocery shortages that continue as the pandemic drags on.
“This week I’m dealing a lot with a shortage of meat supply, and that’s a challenge,” said McClelland. “And then you just look at the panic that went with the pandemic.”
He said he’s seen a lot of courage amidst the panic.
“If you think about COVID-19, I think anyone working in the store if they were absolutely honest would say we would prefer to be at home and not at work because it would be safer, but we also know that what we’re called upon to do is to provide food to Texans in their moment of need,” said McClelland.
And he told of the positive stories he’s heard from customers and friends over the past month or so.
“’My family’s cooking and baking more and spending more time together,’” McClelland said some have told him. “’I’ve never played more dominoes since I was a kid,’ and so sometimes you do have to look for silver-lining.”
The H-E-B president says the company came close to tripling the size of its online business when the pandemic hit the U.S., and they’ve spent the weeks working out the kinks on massive curbside-pickup and grocery-delivery expansion.