- Real Estate
- Food & Drink
April 2, 2020
This paid piece is sponsored by the South Dakota Retailers Association.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, South Dakota grocer RF Buche will be delivering a little something extra to his customers in their Easter “basket.”
“We will be giving every customer (while supplies last) a fresh rose. It’s our way of saying we care about you,” said Buche, owner of Buche Foods.
“Additionally, we will be giving $20 through our app split between the week before Easter and the week of Easter. Times are a little tougher for a lot of South Dakotans right now, and this is one way we can stand beside our customers and help.”
The $20 is essentially a coupon through the Buche Foods app that can be used on groceries.
The Buche Foods team has put in extra time to make sure their stores are sanitized and stocked to ensure their employees and customers are safe, he said.
They are in constant communication with many wholesalers, working on sourcing products, product allocation and supply needs while dealing with margin compression and wholesaler price increases.
“The Buche Foods team always goes above and beyond, and this situation is no different,” said Nathan Sanderson, executive director of the South Dakota Retailers Association. “Right now is an uncertain time for businesses as well, but the Buche Foods team is working together to benefit each store and the entire state of South Dakota.”
The Buche Co. is made up of grocery stores and convenience stores along with a Subway, a hardware store and an auto parts store. It has approximately 285 employees.
RF Buche is a fourth-generation grocer. His great-grandfather Gus Buche started the company in 1905.
The company’s management now meets every day via phone conference to talk over the previous day’s changes, listen to what their customers are saying, plan product deliveries and discuss product shortages, price increases, wholesaler changes and new ideas that will keep their employees and customers safe.
Chris McFayden, Buche Co. operations manager, and owner RF Buche are in communication before the sun comes up and don’t finish discussions until long after the sun goes down. McFayden’s role is gathering information on what is going on with product shortages, allocations, new suppliers and daily changes and then communicating that information to store managers.
RF Buche recently finished in-person meetings at each of the company’s 13 locations. He explained that his No. 1 job right now is making sure employees are informed and receive reassurance that things are going to be OK.
In addition to daily employee encouragement, the Buche team has been diligent in its expanded sanitation efforts.
“We are wiping down door handles, PIN pads, check stands, bathrooms and everywhere throughout the day. All our high-touch points are the focus of our cleaning. We are installing sneeze guards and social distancing floor graphics to keep our customers and our team safe,” Buche said. “We are going to come out of this sooner than later, and I want all of our customers and our team to be happy and healthy when we do.”
Buche Foods recently started curbside service and delivery. Each store has different times and days when they are helping their customers with individual needs. Additionally, the stores are offering the first hour of every day for the elderly to shop.
“A lot of businesses have had to modify their business practices to accommodate their customers and CDC guidelines,” Sanderson said. “Buche Foods is doing a good job informing their staff and their community about what they are doing and the importance of it.”
RF Buche gives much of the credit to his team. Explaining that no matter what customers need, no matter what changes staff members have had to deal with, Buche said team members have stepped up.
“During recent in-store meetings I just finished, I had to set an example and replace hugs and handshakes with a warm smile,” he said. “Even though it was difficult for both the employee and me because we have a very close relationship, we have to be socially responsible. Our entire Buche’s team knows our customers and our communities need us right now. They know they are essential, and we will get through this together.”
Price changes always have and always will be a result of supply and demand. With restaurant closings and changes in operations, the food dollar has changed for customers, which is creating some product supply issues and changes in pricing.
“We are doing our best to keep costs and retails down. We are seeing cleaning products, paper products, toilet paper, eggs and meat prices, especially ground beef, all increase in price,” Buche said. “Additionally, we are having a difficult time ordering a lot of these items, so that’s a dual problem. However, I think we are doing a good job of finding product in a lot of creative ways.”
For instance, because Buche’s grocery wholesaler had an limited allocation on eggs, the grocer found a restaurant supplier to source the product.
“We bought eggs in 15-dozen-tray pack cases. It’s not conventional, but we just cut the cases down, overwrapped the eggs and sold them as an 18-pack. It’s not pretty, but it’s better than not having eggs for our customers,” Buche said.
With pricing uncertainly, some grocers have discontinued their advertised prices and well as their temporary price reductions and deals. Not Buche Foods.
“We are keeping our advertisement flier and TPRs and also increased the number of digital coupons we are sending each week,” Buche said. “Times are a little tougher right now; some people are scared. Our customers deserve a break, and that’s exactly what we are going to give them.”
“It’s our way of saying we care about you.” This longtime South Dakota grocer is doing all he can to show appreciation to customers.