When the COVID-19 pandemic began, grocery retail companies started worrying about keeping brick-and-mortar stores open, employees and customers safe, and their communities fed. Therefore, Kroger needed a safe and cost-effective way to monitor store occupancy that could be delivered rapidly across their 2700+ locations while using technology already deployed. The solution would need to work when connectivity to a central server was unavailable. However, at the corporate-level Kroger, occupancy and compliance history was necessary to provide documentation to health inspectors. Given the stress on grocery workers, the recommended solution would have to eliminate the need for additional store labor.
We leveraged Kroger’s existing QueVision system that forecasts the need to open additional checkout lanes. QueVision displays checkout lane queue lengths and wait times on in-store monitors. Building on this existing data source and equipment, we developed an in-store web application that calculated a store’s estimated occupancy. This allowed for each store to operate without connectivity concerns. The system sent data to Kroger’s corporate servers daily.
As ordinances vary locally, the solution measured occupancy against state or municipality occupancy guidelines considering the store’s square footage and average shop time. Information displayed on in-store monitors allowed associates to ensure occupancy was within safety limits.
Reports produced by the solution provided store and corporate management historical analyses so as to support updates of operating procedures and to allow for compliance reporting.
The effort culminated in a nationwide communications push in early April of 2020 notifying millions of customers. This project helped Kroger keep all stores open safely with minimal cost, health inspectors happy, and stores could keep additional labor to a minimum concerning occupancy compliance.