As the nation's leading food retailers look to rapidly expand their delivery services, Trader Joe's executives say their stores won't be bringing groceries to customers' homes or cars in the near future.
On Monday's episode of the grocery chain's podcast, "Inside Trader Joe's," Matt Sloan, the company's vice president of marketing, dished on why delivery just isn't going to happen right now, despite the fact that the chain has seen exponential growth in demand amid the coronavirus pandemic.
"Creating an online shopping system for curbside pickup or the infrastructure for delivery, it's a massive undertaking. It's something that takes months or years to plan, build and implement and it requires tremendous resources," Sloan said on the podcast.
"Well, at Trader Joe's, the reality is that over the last couple of decades we've invested those resources in our people rather than build an infrastructure that eliminates the need for people," he continued.
Podcast host Tara Miller, who is also Trader Joe's marketing director, added that these measures included hiring more employees in lieu of setting up popular technologies, like self-checkout, amid the ongoing health crisis.
Many businesses in the food industry are grappling with how to deal with decreased demand in some areas and soaring needs in others. For grocery stores, that's meant adapting practices to keep store shelves stocked, while finding new ways to accommodate customers, especially when it comes to curbside pickup and delivery which, when done properly, allow both store employees and shoppers to get food while practicing social distancing.
With the exception of a short promotion in 2019 that offered grocery delivery to New York City customers, Trader Joe's has never offered delivery or grocery pickup options. The company said it stopped operating that service so stores could remain focused on low product prices. While some city dwellers could potentially hire TaskRabbits to do their grocery shopping for them, Trader Joe's is also unavailable on third-party delivery sites like Instacart.
Many fans of the popular California-based grocery chain swear by Trader Joe's for its low prices and unique shopping experience made possible by the notoriously friendly, Hawaiian-shirt wearing crew and funny quirks, like stores hiding stuffed animals on shelves for kids to find.
But the present global pandemic has made grocery shopping feel stressful, detached and even risky for many, though experts ensure shopping can still be safe when people adapt the right precautionary measures.
Of course, it's not just customers who have been grappling with the difficult climate. In early April, Trader Joe's faced backlash from crew members who felt unsafe about their work conditions after a New York employee died from coronavirus. Some boycotted and attempted to unionize, according to the New York Times, but those efforts were met with resistance from the store's leaders.
This week, however, Trader Joe's highlighted the various measures it has taken with regards to employee safety in recent weeks. These include more frequent store cleanings, the installation of plexiglass barriers, providing up to two weeks of paid sick leave for workers who exhibit coronavirus symptoms and $2 (per hour) raises for crew members working on the front lines at stores.