How H-E-B Planned For The Coronavirus Crisis

Texas Monthly has a fantastic article up now on how H-E-B managed to be so well prepared for the COVID-19 pandemic. The story is making the regional grocery chain a national topic of conversation. The buzz on social media has only just started, but people are heaping praise on the level of planning that H-E-B put into their response. Pundits from all over the political spectrum are picking up the story and holding the Texas institution up as an example of real leadership and healthy, community-minded corporate culture. Even Arnold Schwarzenegger has weighed in, calling the Texas Monthly piece by Dan Solomon and Paula Forbes "a masterclass in preparation and being ready to support your community."

You really should read the full article, but here are a few highlights:

  • In January, H-E-B leadership started following the story in China, communicating with retailers in China and Italy, and wargaming their response plan.
  • In February, as the volume of customers surged and some products started selling out, the company asked for volunteers from the corporate side to work warehouse and store shifts -- 800 corporate staff took on shifts to help get stores restocked and provide relief to overworked partners in the stores.
  • On March 4, the company activated their Emergency Operations Center in San Antonio, where leaders of the most impacted departments come together to make streamlined collaborative decisions.
  • As they had planned since the beginning, the chain reduced their hours to 8am - 8pm on March 14, giving stores time to get product back out on shelves each night for the next morning.
  • H-E-B has a chief medical officer and a medical board, providing resources to offer medical advice and guidance to store employees.
  • They still did not predict that people would be hoarding toilet paper.

It really is an inspiring look at how the company prepares for crisis situations, and how they view their responsibility to both their communities and their employees.

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