Kroger, the parent company of grocery store chains Fred Meyer and QFC, announced Monday that it will begin limiting the total number of customers allowed in its stores at a time, in order to encourage social distancing and help combat the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kroger operates six Fred Meyer locations and one QFC in Clark County.
Starting Tuesday, Kroger-owned stores will limit their customer traffic to 50 percent of each store building’s code-calculated occupancy capacity. The usual standard is one person per 60 square feet, the company said in a press release — under the new rules, it will be one person per 120 square feet.
Kroger stores will monitor customer traffic using an infrared sensor system called QueVision, which the company already uses to keep track of its daily customer traffic.
Several other grocery store chains have made similar changes, some starting as far back as two weeks ago, such as Trader Joe’s. Walmart and Target both announced customer traffic restrictions late last week. WinCo and Costco have implemented similar measures.
Safeway and its parent company, Albertsons, which operate more than a dozen locations in Clark County, announced customer traffic restrictions at their own stores on Monday, according to multiple media reports.
Some of the grocery store chains have also implemented one-way customer traffic in their aisles; Kroger’s press release said the company has begun a test of that strategy at some of its stores.
Kroger also announced that it will begin encouraging associates to wear protective masks and gloves. The company said it had ordered masks for associates nationwide and anticipated having supplies in place at all of its locations by the end of the week. Similar measures have been announced at some of the other grocery store chains.
The news comes about five days after a joint press release from Kroger and the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, which represents workers at Kroger stores, announcing that the company would give its store associates a $2-per-hour pay raise during the COVID-19 crisis, as well as two weeks of emergency sick leave for employees with COVID-19 symptoms.
The pay raise also applies to workers at Kroger pharmacies, manufacturing plants, distribution centers and call centers. The announcement said that the pay raise would last for three weeks, after which Kroger and the union will “revisit discussions.”
Last week’s announcement also mentioned that the chain had begun allowing associates to wash their hands and sanitize cash registers every 30 minutes, and that the company had added floor decals at check lanes to promote proper physical spacing.
Grocery stores are listed as an essential service under Washington’s stay-at-home order. The pandemic and the mitigation efforts have hammered businesses across every industry, leading to record closures and layoffs, but grocery stores have been having the opposite problem: Customer traffic has increased dramatically in the past month as shoppers have rushed to stock up on supplies in preparation for social distancing and home quarantine efforts.