Food retailers have been one of the industries most impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak. Festival Foods, headquartered in De Pere, has been adapting to changes in consumer demand, health regulations, supply chain and workforce needs since the pandemic began.
“We know that it is a time of uncertainty and as we’ve all seen, each day brings more changes that we adapt to,” says Senior Director of Community Involvement for Festival Foods Brian Stenzel. “We have worked hard to ensure that associates and guests alike are aware of the changes that take place and we continue to rally together as a team along with our vendor partners.”
Festival Foods stores are continually receiving shipments of products on a regular basis to try to keep up with increased demand as consumers rushed to stock their pantries in fear of a national lockdown. Stenzel says in the first two weeks of the crisis, product deliveries to the stores almost doubled in an effort to keep shelves stocked.
“While we’re seeing this balance out currently, most vendors continue to come more frequently to keep up with demand and deliveries are arriving seven days of the week,” he says. “Prior to the crisis, we normally received deliveries five or six days a week at maximum.”
Increased delivery loads and sales volume means it takes longer to stock shelves so employees are working double time to keep up.
“Our third shift team that stocks wants to ensure our guests are receiving the same quality products they are used to purchasing prior to the crisis, so we are working even harder to fill shelves and ensure our new deliveries are unloaded and ready for our guests,” says Tong Xiong, Menasha Festival Foods 3rd Shift Manager.
Communication between stores and their suppliers, vendors, warehouse workers and truck drivers has never been more vital. Steve Nelson, Menasha Festival Foods receiving manager, says his store has adjusted the way they receive products while complying with the state guidelines being sent daily.
“We have extended our receiving hours to accept deliveries when needed from our vendor partners,” Nelson says. “We have also changed the way we check in with our vendor partners to ensure we are keeping both our associates and vendor partners safe. I appreciate that with everything that is currently happening, the vendor partners I work with are still able to maintain the positive atmosphere we usually have.”
Maintaining morale under stressful circumstances can be challenging, but Menasha Festival Foods Store Director Paul Klinkhammer says his entire team is finding new ways to engage with each other while adhering to social distancing guidelines.
“We are having dance-offs in the store, singing in the aisles, and spreading joy with one another to keep the atmosphere high,” he says. “The best morale booster we have had recently is the support we are getting from our guests. Many of our associates have shared they have been hearing more and more guests expressing their appreciation for working during this time. Hearing ‘Thank you’ from our guests truly gives us that extra energy to keep going.”
Safety and health awareness is at an all-time high. Sheryl Dingman, Menasha Festival Foods Floral Manager/Safety Lead, says stores acted quickly to establish all safety recommendations provided by local health officials and the CDC.
“One of our incredible evening cashiers at our store has taken the lead on thoroughly disinfecting every shopping cart daily with a mixture that was recommended by the CDC for cleaning purposes,” Dingman says.
During daytime hours, disinfectant bottles are available to shoppers who wish to clean their cart before use. Plexiglass barriers have been installed at every register to help protect shoppers and cashiers in close range of one another.
Because of the evolving COVID-19 situation, many of the Festival Foods stores are closing daily at 9 p.m. to allow staff the time to clean and replenish stock levels. The first two hours each day, from 5 to 7 a.m., are reserved for elderly and immunocompromised shoppers.
Festival Foods currently employs 7,500 associates at 33 stores throughout Wisconsin. Due to the increased demand, the company is looking to hire additional associates, the exact number of which will be determined by each store’s needs.
“As hard as our teammates are working, we could still use more help. Our 33 stores throughout the state are continuing to add to their teams,” says Festival Foods President and CEO Mark Skogen. “We’re looking for both regular and part-time associates to join us going forward as well as temporary part-time associates who are looking to pick up some extra hours during these unprecedented times.”
Those interested in applying can do so online at https://career.festfoods.com/