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Industry Updates Retail

FMI Suggests Best Practices for Retailers, Restaurants Over Coronavirus Concerns


Amid coronavirus concerns, consumer behavior is changing as the general public avoids gathering places and exercises social distancing. In response, the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) has shared a 16-page “Coronavirus and Pandemic Preparedness for the Food Industry”  best practice guide for restaurants and retailers to prepare as consumers’ needs change.

The food retail organization suggests best practices the industry can adopt in preparation as demand for online shopping, self-checkout and home delivery have already begun to spike. Grocery delivery companies Instacart and FreshDirect have both reported a surge in business, according to CNBC. Instacart is seeing an increased demand for bottled water, hand sanitizer and other household essentials, while FreshDirect is seeing an increase in demand for fresh seafood and chicken, baby food and household cleaning products.

“We have to try to understand what consumers are thinking before they think of it,” FMI Vice President of Industry Relations Doug Baker told CNBC. “In an event like this, you have to quickly adapt to whatever consumer demand is. And in a moment of crisis, you have some idea of the demand that may peak, but you don’t know the magnitude to which they’ll peak and the geographies where they’ll peak.”

FMI said shoppers are expected to consolidate grocery trips with fewer visits and bigger baskets. Consumers may also expect food handlers in the grocery store to wear masks and gloves, as well as have antibacterial wipes available for use in stores.

As more consumers choose to use grocery delivery services, Instacart, Shipt, Postmates and more have introduced a non-contact delivery feature. “Customers can choose to meet their Postmate at the door, as they have before, meet curbside, or go non-contact and have deliveries left at the door,” Postmates said. “To use this new feature, order as normal and then you’ll be prompted to select your delivery preference before checking out.”

U.S. shoppers are focusing on buying items for prevention and preparedness, which has prompted Target and Kroger to restrict the number of sanitizing, cold and flu-related products. Target is limiting the number of hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes to six per guest while Kroger limits customers to five sanitizing, cold and flu-related products.

Restaurants should expect to see dine-in business decrease “significantly for some considerable period of time,” FMI says. The association also warns restaurants to plan to operate with significant staff shortages. Restaurants and retailers are advised to develop best practices to “minimize the odds of spreading the infections disease.” Examples include minimizing group meetings and communicating via e-mail and voice only, and providing information on home precautions and home care for ill family members.

For a complete list of FMI’s suggested best practices, click here.