PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The last five days were not only unpredictable but also unprecedented in the grocery business, says Dan Donovan of Giant Eagle.
“The amount of traffic our stores are seeing are right up there with the busiest times of year, whether they be around Thanksgiving, Christmas or otherwise,” Donovan said.
Some shelves in groceries have been completely swept clean of all products. But Donovan says customers have to understand that doesn’t mean the product is unavailable.
“Guests have to realize that is a snapshot of a moment in time and that another truck is on its way to the store to replenish that as soon as possible,” he said.
The issue is the trucks are the heart of the supply chain, and right now, they are doing all they can to meet the demand.
“So we have trucks that on certain days might be delivering to 10 stores today. They are making trips to one or two stores at a time,” says Donovan. “Then, they have to return to the warehouse and reload. It’s not getting access to the product, it literally is getting the product from our warehouses to our stores.”
Monday and Tuesday, the crush on the stores has slowed a bit from the first few days of the frenzy, and Donovan says that’s helping.
“We are catching up on that everyday. Our team members in the stores and driving the trucks are working 24 hours a day,” Donovan said.
With trucks arriving throughout the day, Giant Eagle has made some in store changes to handle getting the goods to the shelves and keeping the shelves stocked. The one-on-one service areas are closed so the employees can help stock shelves. Or in the case of the butchers, so they can produce more ground beef for the meat case.
Thomas Ransom came into the store today and suggested everyone can help improve the situation.
“I think that people should be mindful of what they need at home and just not buy just to buy, and understand we’re in a crisis and we need to take care of each other,” Ransom said.
To try and make sure as many customer needs are met as possible, Giant Eagle and other grocers and big box stores are limiting individual purchases.
At the region’s largest grocer, customers are limited to four cases of bottled water, one package of each paper product [toilet paper and paper towels], two bread items, two containers of milk and one container of disinfectant wipes.
Donovan says, “These limits are in place to help our guest and make sure we have enough product to serve everybody.”
Josh Fuoco, from Moon Township, was on the hunt to find toilet paper.
“We potty-trained a toddler over the weekend, and we’re low on toilet paper, and I got the last one on the rack,” he said.
Two hours later, a truck arrived with a half pallet of toilet paper and it was gone in less than 10 minutes.
But to Donovan’s point about the trucks keep rolling in. An hour after that, there was another with two pallets of two-ply, which was lingering in the store well over two hours later.
For now, the supply chain will remain a bit unpredictable and no one is sure when the stores will return to being fully stocked.