The recent run of hot days here in Wisconsin generated some intense thunderstorms and left thousands without power for various lengths of time.
During outages like this, people often think about how they will get their garage door open, keep the kids entertained, or prevent all the food in the refrigerator from spoiling. In a grocery store, we have some of the same concerns when the power goes out. Guests who are shopping with us during a power outage ask a lot of great questions and I wanted to take this opportunity to share the information with all of you.
The No. 1 question we get is, “Don’t you have a generator?” The answer is yes!
Our stores are equipped with generators that provide enough power to operate the cash registers and emergency lights around the store so guests and associates can safely navigate the aisles.
There are dozens and dozens of refrigeration and freezer cases and rooms in the store and a generator big enough to keep all of those running like normal would cost millions of dollars. Based on the limited number of times a year when power is lost for long periods of time, the expense of such a generator just wouldn’t be worth the investment in most cases.
Our top priority during a power outage is food safety and product quality for our guests. During an outage, we take the precaution of blocking off aisles that have refrigerated and frozen items. That way, we can keep case doors closed, which allow products to stay safely cold for hours.
Refrigerated products kept in open air cases, such as packaged meat or fruit and vegetable trays, are covered to help hold in the chill. Our teammates perform temperature checks on the cases and products and will begin removing items approximately 30 minutes after power is lost as necessary.
Depending on the length of the power outage, it may become necessary to pull all frozen and refrigerated products from the store.
One or two times in our company’s history we’ve handed out buckets of ice cream and spoons to guests in the parking lot because the product would simply go to waste if it were not eaten immediately. We have also partnered with local shelters and food kitchens to use prepared foods that same day at their locations so those products can be used.
Once power is returned to a location, the entire team works together to restock the coolers and freezers for guests. We know that finding an empty shelf where your favorite item should be isn’t OK and all associates across the store pull together to reduce the amount of time it takes to get everything back to full.
This past week I had the good fortune of being in our store on the east side of Green Bay when the power was out. I witnessed incredible teamwork by associates across all departments and was grateful to see so many having fun with the situation.
There were associates working in different departments to help restock shelves and guests were using flashlights on their cellphones to continue shopping. Members of our bakery team also were handing out bottles of water and cookies to people waiting patiently in line to check out.
That same storm knocked the power out in our Mount Pleasant store later that evening and by all accounts the team there also did a great job of focusing on food safety and continuing to provide great service to guests.
We can’t control what Mother Nature throws our way, however I am confident that Team Festival will be ready.