Houston grocery stores are not shutting down because of the coronavirus. There is no issue with the food supply chain, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner repeatedly stressed at an 11 a.m. news conference today. And if you are looking for a job, go to H-E-B, Kroger or Randalls because they are hiring — in need of people to help move product and stock the shelves.
Flanked by Scott McClelland, H-E-B president; Joe Kelley, Kroger Company, Houston Division president and
Christy Lara of Randalls, the mayor insisted "There's no need to rush into the stores." He repeated earlier pleas that people be sensitive to the needs of others. In fact, he declared that the people who are buying more than they need "are not Houstonians, they're visitors because Houstonians don't operate that way."
He also stressed that the water in Houston is safe to drink. On a side note, the mayor and Eric Dargan, deputy director of the Houston Public Works department urged people to use only toilet paper in their toilets because the city's sanitary system can't deal with other paper substitutes.
The three grocery store representatives all said that they and their suppliers are working around the clock to keep food and supplies moving into Houston. All have limited their store hours to give them time to clean up and restock — not because there isn't enough food to sell.
H-E-B is open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., Kroger 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Randalls 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
"We'r rolling a lot of trucks," McClelland said. They are also monitoring the flow of customers "So we don't get too many people in the stores at the same time." Last week H-E-B shut down its florist departments, deciding to place the emphasis and their efforts on the most important items to their customers. He predicted that in days ahead, just in terms of efficiency, customers may not see the variety they are used to.
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There will be trade-offs between between assortment and efficiency, McClellan said.."You may not get a seeded bun with your hamburger, but you'll get a bun," he said.
Kelley said Kroger has products and supplies arriving daily. "We're partnering with suppliers to prioritize the most urgent needs of water, paper products, baby's needs as well as sanitary needs. Our Texas dairy located in Fort Worth has deliiverd over 40 tractor trailers of milk to the Houston stores just over the weekend. And we're coming back each and every day."
"I hit 30 years tomorrow with H-E-B and I’ve never seen anything like this in my life," McClellan said.
Or as Turner said: "This is different from a hurricane. This one you have to manage and you have to pace yourself because you’re going to be in this situation for the next several weeks."