Food City President and CEO Steve Smith said Tuesday during a press conference it could be “weeks, if not months” before the supply chain is back on track as food shortages are commonplace in grocery stores.

He encouraged shoppers to buy what is needed until the item the customer wants is stocked.

“It will give us a chance to get this supply chain back in shape,” Smith said.

The press conference comes as grocery stores are experiencing shortages due to considerable demand due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Smith said the supermarket chain has hired 1,200 new associates the past week and wants to hire a total of 2,500. There have been 76 new distribution workers hired and the chain is looking to hire 30 more, he said.

Part of the problem, he said is that many restaurants have shut down due to the pandemic, which is leading consumers to head to the grocery store causing a spike. Because of that, it’s creating a huge stress on the supply and demand chain.

He said there are shortages, but there are also plenty of other items to buy in the stores that may be new. He encouraged people to look at these items.

“I’d ask for our customers to bear with us during this time and try some different foods they may not have tried before,” he said.

He said there are other steps being taken right now also to help with the situation at hand.

For example, he acknowledged that meat delivery has been spotty. He said Food City is trying to get more trucks to the distribution center and get more meat.

Smith also said that in the coming days he still sees there could be shortages in toilet paper and paper products.

On some items, Food City is trying to limit the amount to customers. He said he knows that it drives some customers crazy, but at the same time, it’s the best practice for the current situation.

“We do that to make sure that it will go farther to more families,” he said.

Smith also announced during the press conference that Food City associates would be receiving bonuses for their work totaling almost $3 million. He praised the Food City workers during this time and acknowledged they have put themselves at risk to help the public.

He said one of the biggest things he would ask is for the public to be patient during this time and not take their frustration out on the store’s front line employees, who are doing the best job they can.

Smith also promised there would be no price gouging at Food City stores. He said the grocery chain will not raise prices or participate with anyone who tries to take advantage of the consumer during the crisis.

“We’re all in this together,” Smith said.

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