Brad Brookshire is chairman and CEO of Tyler, Texas-based Brookshire Grocery Co., which operates more than 180 stores under the Brookshire’s, Super 1 Foods, Fresh by Brookshire’s and Spring Market banners.
Meg Major: How are your company’s 15,000-member store and support teams holding up as COVID-19 continues to linger as the nation’s foremost concern?
Brad Brookshire: Our partners have taken their role as essential workers very seriously, and I couldn’t be prouder of our team. They’ve handled the challenges of the pandemic like real pros and continue to pull extra shifts and do whatever it takes to take care of our customers. I’d say these difficult times have brought out the very best in our people, and they’re ready to keep going as long as necessary.
We’ve been extremely impressed by all that BGC has done over the course of the pandemic to continually enhance ways to help associates, customers and communities navigate and remain motivated through the new normal. What can you tell us about the significance of these measures and how they are informing your decision-making?
We do our best to live by the core values our company was founded on, which revolve around exceptional service, teamwork, grit, doing our best and doing what’s right. Doing our best to keep everyone safe in our workplace is our utmost priority, and we’ve implemented everything from requiring temperature tests before our people report to work each day to offering pharmacy home delivery in some markets. We’ve invested over $13.5 million in our partners through everything from special bonuses to free lunches because we believe it’s the right thing to do. We’ve designated special shopping hours and discounts for senior citizens and first responders, and given over $1 million to local food banks because we believe it’s important to give back in the communities that support our stores.
On a related note, COVID-19 prompted the grocery industry to rapidly accelerate e-commerce, curbside pickup and delivery, among other changes, in a three-month time span that wasn’t expected to take firm hold for three to five years. Does that strike you as being accurate? Why or why not?
Yes, absolutely. Our curbside business has more than doubled in the past two months. The demand began escalating almost immediately when stay-at-home recommendations were announced. We have added resources to our curbside operations in stores and shifted resources to our call centre to help support the influx of first-time curbside users. We’ve also expedited the rollout of curbside to other locations and now accept EBT and SNAP payments online where allowed by state law.
You were recently quoted as saying: “BGC is committed to making a difference in the communities we serve.” What spurred this philosophy?
My grandparents, Wood and Louise Brookshire, founded our company in 1928 with the belief that it was their calling to serve others through the grocery business. This is still our philosophy today. It’s important to us that we make a positive difference in the lives of those who support our stores and company. We strive to provide exceptional experiences in our stores and to make a real impact in the communities where we live and work.
The coronavirus outbreak has also forced us to tackle our daily routines and activities in new ways. Are there any new habits or outlooks you’ve acquired during the peak of the pandemic lockdown that you will likely retain in the coming years when the pandemic is behind us?
If there is a lesson we’ve learned, it’s how easily viruses can spread and steps we can all take to help protect ourselves and others. Before the pandemic, our corporate partners worked almost exclusively on-site. Given the need for social distancing, 75% of the staff currently works from home. We will likely continue with a version of this model for at least the foreseeable future. Going forward, we will consider everything from facility design to process improvements through a new lens of awareness and lessons learned from operating during a pandemic.
We loved the “Saturday Night Live” Bartenson’s Grocery Store sketch that borrowed heavily from BGC’s logo, including its font, the red and green colours and the signature leaf used as the apostrophe. You and your son, Trent, who is a chief operating officer, had fun with the skit on Brookshire’s Facebook and Instagram pages. How fun was that?
I have to give Trent all the credit. We thought the SNL skit brought some much-needed comic relief to the struggles we’re all having with high demand and short supply in grocery stores this past couple of months. We thought it would be fun to play along, and Trent came up with the idea of spoofing SNL’s skit. Although we didn’t get 2 million social media views as they did, this has been one of our most popular posts ever, with hundreds of reactions, comments and shares.
You were recently chosen as one of two East Texas business leaders to serve as members of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s strike force committee’s special advisory council to reopen the state’s economy. What do you feel you are best equipped to share with your fellow committee members?
Through our designation as an essential business, those of us in the grocery industry have a unique opportunity to help other businesses that are beginning to reopen. We provided Abbott and the committee with a very comprehensive report of the best practices we developed. Following recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and FMI. This includes everything from taking employees’ temperatures before they go to work each day to installing sneeze shields and requiring them to wear face masks or coverings. We’ve learned a lot from our experiences over the past few months, and we’re happy to help businesses that are just starting on this journey.
Favourite dessert: cake, pie or ice cream?
I have to say my favourite is Goldenbrook Farms Cookies & Cream Ice Cream, not because it’s our own brand, but because it’s seriously that good.
Name one person you admire and tell us in one sentence why.
Lamar Hunt (1932-2006), who was the principal founder of the American Football League and Major League Soccer. Among several other major sports leagues and organizations, including the Kansas City Chiefs. I served with him on the Southern Methodist University board and found him to be the most humble high-profile person I have ever been around. He was a real change agent and a true servant-leader.
What’s something many folks don’t know about you (but which you are not ashamed of)?
I am obsessively left-handed and will cheer for any left-handed athlete. Especially the greats such as Phil Mickelson and Rafael Nadal.
Favourite city in the U.S. besides the one you live in?
Hands down Lafayette, La.—a dynamic and diverse city with warm people, rich culture and incredible food.
What three words best describe you?
Obsessively. Left. Handed.
Excluding your mobile phone, computer and car, what’s the most useful thing you own?
I could not survive without my reading glasses.
What is something popular now that annoys you?
With four grandchildren under the age of 4, I’ve heard the “Baby Shark” song a few times too many.
What is something that you believe is true that some people would disagree with you about?
Let’s just say that I don’t believe every conspiracy is a theory.