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Coronavirus Response Plan Offers Action Items for C-Stores

StrasGlobal shares retailer-developed strategy with industry
StrasGlobal
Photograph courtesy of StrasGlobal

TEMPLE, Texas — In response to the COVID-19 crisis, convenience-store operations and consulting company StrasGlobal has developed one of the most comprehensive action plans available so far from a retailer perspective.

In early March, the company put together a task force to determine what it needed to do about the pandemic. But “the contingency plans we had in place didn’t match up to the scope of what we thought we were going to face,” said Roy Strasburger, president of Temple, Texas-based StrasGlobal. “In speaking to fellow retailers, I’ve come to the realization that, while everyone else started off at the same place we did, not everyone has a clear idea as to what to do. We decided to codify the COVID-19 response plan for our stores and want to share it with others.”

The plan is “a work in progress and was done by retailers rather than consultants,” he said. “We are not fully implemented on all of these items as we continue to face staffing, supply and technology challenges. [But] we want to do our part to increase the COVID-19 knowledge base by showing actionable items that we, a relatively small operator, are implementing.”

Here are just a few highlighted suggestions from the plan:

Communications

  • Leadership should put out official frequent emails to store managers three to four times per week and short videos to the team with updates on new developments, actions and recognition of the team’s efforts.
  • Survey team members and customers about what will make them feel safer in the store and about specific needs.
  • Implement video conferencing between store managers and field staff to allow management to visually check in with stores more frequently but reduce exposure of field and store staff.
  • Use simple and clear signs, buttons and badges to remind people about social distancing and hand washing; to limit the number of customers in the store; for restroom cleaning; to announce services such as curbside delivery, home delivery and senior programs; and for “now in stock” information. Investigate the use of digital signage.
  • Create a “knowledge storage” center for news, government announcements and information. Follow industry updates and initiatives from industry associations and industry media.
  • Designate a “government monitor” to keep up with federal, state and local laws, announcements and initiatives.
  • Create a secured-access team website allowing for anonymous feedback.
  • Post, like and repost information on social media to share policies with other retailers and with the rest of industry.

Health and Safety

  • Continue promoting good personal hygiene practices.
  • Continue to sanitize surfaces.
  • Continue social distancing.
  • Provide personal health packets that contain gloves, masks, disposable gowns and hand sanitizers. Require team members to use all items while in the store.
  • Use plexiglass sneeze guards for each point-of-sale position.
  • Provide wipes or gloves at the pumps.
  • Investigate full service at the fuel pump where it is allowed by law.
  • Limit the number of people who can be in the store at any one time.
  • No self-service foodservice or reusable cups. (Keep fountain and coffee cups behind the counter.)

Morale

  • Conduct a daily morale check at store level through surveys and personal calls from supervisors.

Management

  • Stores may be visited by field management only if no overnight hotel stay is required.
  • Experiment with management supervision through video store tours and photos to reduce personal interaction and the risk of field personnel spreading the virus between stores.

Sales and Customer Interaction

  • Absolutely no price gouging or overpricing.
  • Communicate any negative or misleading publicity to management so that action can be taken.
  • Ration essential items.
  • Adjust store operating hours.

Outreach

  • Offer free fountain drinks and coffee for first responders and medical personnel either in uniform or with ID.
  • Provide discounts and special considerations for seniors.

Partnerships

  • Partner with local restaurants to resell prepared food (health laws permitting) and hire staff that has been laid off or furloughed.
  • Work with other entities (florists, bakeries, pet shops, toy shops, laundry, bookstores, etc.) in a way similar to that of restaurants.

Worst-Case Scenario

  • If the outbreak becomes substantially worse, if the stores become chronically understaffed or if customers are not allowed in the store, move to operating only on a curbside or delivery basis. Fuel pumps should remain open.

Click here to view StrasGlobal’s complete COVID-19 Response Plan, which offers additional suggestions and details.

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