An Inside Look at How H-E-B's Emergency Preparedness Team Got Ready for the Coronavirus Crisis
Even The Arnold is impressed with H-E-B's response to the coronavirus crisis, which, on a scale of one to prepared is very, very prepared.
Indeed, the Texas-based grocery chain has taken the coronavirus pandemic very seriously from the outset, calling an all hands on deck meeting back in February to prepare for the imminent threat. In the August issue of Texas Monthly, the authors of the original March article that Schwarzenegger calls out, Dan Solomon and Paula Forbes, wrote another in-depth feature taking readers behind-the-scenes of H-E-B's disaster preparation.
The grocer's playbook for handling the looming crisis, even in February when PPE was but a strange acronym for most Americans, was extensive: They looked at everything from how China responded to the initial virus outbreak and social distancing measures they could employ like spacing out customer entry to maintaining their inventory and handling employee sickness. In short, their measures were exhaustive and key in ensuring H-E-B was prepared to rise to the occasion.
"A month later, in mid-March, as the pandemic began to surge in the United States and political leaders struggled to respond, H-E-B emerged as an unlikely model of foresight, planning, and competence. Executives cut store hours in order to give employees more time to stock shelves, and rolled out a pay bump of $2 an hour, which gave way to permanent raises for most hourly employees in June," wrote Solomon and Forbes. The company enacted a customer limit on the purchase of items like hand sanitizer and disinfectant sprays. They worked with partners to get additional inventory delivered to their stores. All of these changes—and more—arrived days and sometimes weeks before other large supermarket chains put similar efforts into effect.
No stranger to crisis, H-E-B, as the article chronicles, has handled hurricanes in years past, such as Hurricane Harvey in 2017, and Hurricane Rita in 2005, thus fine-tuning its response as an emergency responder and provider of essentials for Texas residents. “When you feed half the people in Texas, it’s your responsibility to be open during times of crisis,” Justen Noakes, H-E-B's director of emergency preparedness, aptly put it in Texas Monthly. You can read Solomon and Forbes' full article here.
Of course, adapting to the realities of the coronavius pandemic has not been without hiccups (online ordering, for instance, has been far from perfect), but thus far, H-E-B has served as an exemplar for crisis response. Needless to say, we're all looking forward to brighter days ahead, but for the time being, we sure wish this Kerrville, Texas-born brand dotted the landscape of every state in America.