CHICAGO — Convenience-store operators are revving up their methods to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in their stores. Beyond increased sanitation efforts and removing self-serve foodservice, operators are now installing plexiglass barriers, also known as sneeze guards, at the registers to protect customers and associates.
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Here are some chains that have installed sneeze guards at its stores …
7-Eleven Inc. is installing two plexiglass sneeze guards at the front sales counter of every U.S. location to combat the spread of COVID-19. Installations will begin in areas hardest hit by the pandemic, the company said. Credit card PIN units will be located on the customer-facing side of the plexiglass sneeze guards.
“We are doing everything we can to keep stores open and stocked with the products local communities need while also keeping customers safe,” said Joe DePinto, president and CEO of 7-Eleven. “These new sneeze guards provide additional protection for customers, store associates and franchisees. We are monitoring the changing situation and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations and will continue to prioritize the health of our customers, store associates and franchisees across America.”
Irving, Texas-based 7-Eleven Inc. operates, franchises or licenses more than 66,000 stores in 17 countries, including more than 9,300 in the United States. The retailer is No. 1 on the Top 40 update to CSP’s 2019 Top 202 ranking of U.S. c-store chains by number of retail outlets. CSP will release the complete 2020 list in June.
In addition to its work-from-home policy and increased sanitation efforts, Circle K has installed preventive barriers in stores to combat the spread of COVID-19. The clear barriers separate customers and clerks at the register and protect against coughs, sneezes and other potential exposures, Circle K said.
"I know these are stressful, difficult days as we see the effects of this global pandemic on our lives, workplaces and neighborhoods,” said Brian Hannasch, president and CEO of Laval, Quebec-based Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc., the parent company of Circle K. “As a company, we are deeply committed to being part of the solution for our customers and our employees. Our team members are working hard to create impactful measures to serve our communities, and I have never been prouder to be the leader of this company."
Casey's General Stores
Casey’s General Stores Inc., Ankeny, Iowa, is installing plexiglass shields at the register to prevent COVID-19 exposure in its stores.
Along with an update on its cleaning and hygiene practices, social distancing measures and changes in foodservice, Casey’s has also provided details on the effect of the coronavirus pandemic on the convenience-store retailer’s operations and has withdrawn its financial guidance for fiscal 2020.
Wawa has installed clear, plastic shields at its registers to protect employees and customers while checking out. The company has also added social distancing markers to encourage patrons to stand 6 feet away from each other.
“In addition to our enhanced cleaning and sanitation protocols and previously implemented in-store precautions, we are adding some extra measures to ensure we are supporting the most up-to-date recommendations, with a specific focus on social distancing,” the company said.
Enmarket has begun installing sneeze guards in all 125 of its stores in Georgia and the Carolinas. The plexiglass shields will become a new icon of the current pandemic because they limit exposure between customers and cashiers during the check-out process, the company said in a statement.
“These shields will provide an additional level of safety for our employees,” said Brett Giesick, president of Enmarket. “We will be moving as quickly as possible to get them in place at each of our checkout locations.”
Pittsburgh-based retailer Giant Eagle has installed plexiglass dividers at its GetGo convenience stores, Giant Eagle Supermarkets and Market District Pharmacy stores to protect customers and employees from COVID-19 exposure. The company has added these barriers to “the vast majority of its stores,” it said.
Besides the sneeze guards, Giant Eagle has also installed social distancing markers in its stores and has asked customers to refrain from using reusable bags.
“We are not wavering in our commitment to providing an unparalleled guest service or a future free of single-use plastics, but rather are asking our guests to take this opportunity to help us promote the safest shopping experience possible,” said Dan Donovan, spokesperson for Giant Eagle.
GPM Investments LLC has begun installing plastic shields to protect customers and associates from coughs, sneezes and other “potential sources of exposure to COVID-19,” the company said. It has also begun installing floor decals indicating social distance spacing.
GPM has also boosted its cleaning frequency, required employees to wear disposable gloves, closed dine-in foodservice areas and suspended refillable cups.
"As a company, we are dedicated to prioritizing the health and safety of everyone who enters our stores,” said Arie Kotler, CEO of GPM. “I personally want to thank our front-line associates for their efforts during this challenging time. I am grateful for everything they do. They are heroes.”
Lou Perrine's Gas & Groceries
Independent operator Lou Perrine’s Gas & Groceries, Kenosha, Wis., has added a plexiglass shield to its checkout counter.
“We are doing our part to help keep you and our team safe,” said Anthony Perrine, owner of Lou Perrine’s. “We have an hourly cleaning schedule, employees are wearing gloves, and we just installed plexiglass at the checkout. Now we need you to do your part. If it’s not a necessary trip, order online.”
Big Red Stores
Big Red Stores is not only installing plexiglass barriers in its locations—it’s also building the shields. The company recently posted to social media that it’s “hard at work building plexiglass shields” for its stores alongside photographs of workers sawing wood and working with the glass.
Bryant, Ark.-based Summerwood Partners operates 32 Big Red c-stores and three Family Market grocery stores in central Arkansas towns of Malvern, Shannon Hills and Pangburn. The company is No. 182 on CSP’s2019 Top 202.
Dutch Oil Co.
Fuel provider Dutch Oil Co., Columbus, Miss., has installed sneeze guards in its convenience stores. Dutch Oil has also built its own barriers and has provided instructions on how other operators can do the same. Steps include:
- Drilling two holes in the top corners of the plexiglass.
- Hang the plexiglass from the ceiling with two chains.
- Adjust the chains so the counter opening is tall enough for items to pass through.
"No contractor needed,” said Rex Gillis, president of Dutch Oil. “Most anyone can do this. Our employees are thanking us big time. It has been a great morale boost.”
Global Partners LP, Waltham, Mass., is installing plexiglass guards at the register in all of its convenience stores and gas stations in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island and New York.