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Food City has hired more than 1,200 retail workers and another 76 warehouse employees in the past week across its 4-state footprint as the grocery chain seeks to add more workers to handle increased business at its 123 supermarkets.

"We've halfway toward our goal of getting another 2,500 folks that we really need to augment our team and to get our supply chain kinks worked out and to provide the kinds of customer service we want," Food City CEO Steve Smith said today.

For the existing workers at Food City supermarkets, including more than two dozen Food City stores in the Chattanooga area, the company announced today it will be giving bonuses to the company's 16,000 employees totaling $3 million.

"We want to thank our superstars in our stores who have been working tirelessly to serve the needs of our customers during this unparalleled time," Smith said, noting that the company also recently enhanced its health benefit package for its workers.

Food City, like most grocery store chains, has seen a surge in business as consumers shift their eating and buying habits as restaurants, schools and work sites are closed to help limit the spread of the coronavirus. Walmart, the world's biggest retailer, is hiring another 150,000 associates, including over 4,000 more workers in Tennessee and Publix said it is adding thousands of workers at its supermarkets across the Southeast.

Dollar General announced this week it is adding 50,000 more workers to handle increased business at its convenience stores, which sell some grocery items.

Smith said that Food City sales, in some areas, have nearly doubled from the levels before the coronavirus fears lead many buyers to stockpile certain goods and shut down many places where consumers previously ate.

Smith said the company has had to allocate high-demand items to its stores and suspend some of its advertising promotions because the retailer can't always guarantee every item will be available in the store.

"We're continuing to experience out-of-stock items at the store level due to some manufacturers' shortages and cuts to our distribution center," Smith said.

While the Food City CEO said shortage of some items may continue in the weeks ahead, "the United States and the grocery industry will not run out of food."

"I can personally guarantee you that our stores will remain open seven days a week," Smith said.

Food City and other grocers have trimmed their hours of operation to give workers more time to restock for the higher sales volume and to take extra steps to sanitize stores and equipment.

Smith appealed to shoppers not to hoard items, especially while some supply chains are constrained. But he said he is confident product supplies will continue to flow into Food City stores.

"There are the same number of mouths to feed and the same number of bottoms to,well "care for" as there were a month ago," Smith said. "There are the same number of produce farmers, dairies, ranchers, canners and consumer product companies today as there were a month ago. There is plenty of food in our country."

The grocery store hiring by major chains comes as restaurants are being forced to shut down their sit-down operations. Nationwide, the restaurant industry employs more than 13 million persons and industry analysts fear many of those workers could lose their jobs or income in the next few weeks with most eateries either shutdown or doing only curbside, drive-through or delivery orders.

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