From the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in Victoria, LaManna supermarket in Essendon Fields was reacting and preparing for every outcome that they could foresee. Very early in 2020, before the first lockdown, they were affected by panic buying and had to introduce purchase limits.
They took their role as an essential business very seriously. Without any assistance from a governing body or the resources of the Big 4 Supermarkets (Coles, Woolworths, Aldi and IGA) they came up with a series of measures to help assist them. And always at the front of their minds was the safety of their staff and their customers who they included as part of the LaManna family.
"That's how we kind of had our direction with this coronavirus, what we should be implementing at our store, it's been family focused the whole way through. And we, our customers, our staff and our community are our highest priority and that's how we consider it, ... our doors are our family home and we want to make sure everyone feels safe in our home. So that's the way we implemented things here." (Senior LaManna Manager.)
The panic buying also brought new customers to the store who were attracted to the changes that were being made to the store.
"To this date that's been the most overwhelming response is that: "You guys have made us feel so safe", ... we've really thought about every inch of the whole process, we really made sure we could cater to any issues. And we are still to this day making those changes. We're not getting them always right, but we're definitely doing it and were doing it to the best of our ability for, you know, everyone's safety at LaManna." (Senior LaManna Manager.)

Their measures included:

1. Setting up a daily management team across all departments to discuss updates from the World Health Organisation, State and Federal Governments, and also discuss the levels of stock available in the store (in regards to revising purchase limits).

2. Reducing the numbers of customers in the store at any one time.

3. Hiring a marquee with heaters outside the front door for comfortable 1.5m social distanced lining up.

4. Installing sanitiser stations, and making hand sanitising a compulsory requirement of entry. They also made gloves available.

5. Sanitising supermarket trolleys. Removing hand baskets. Dedicating a staff member to sanitise trolleys throughout the day.

6. Placing 1.5m social distancing stickers on the floor.

7. Offering 1.5m social distancing stickers for staff to wear to remind customers.

8. Closing every second register to allow for 1.5m social distancing. Also acrylic barriers around some registers.

9. Installing protective virus screens ("sneeze guards") at all registers.

10. Deep cleaning of every department daily.

11. Providing handouts to customers about purchase limits.

12. Updating website (COVID-19 page), social media, email about all new measures and purchase limits.

13. Installing instore posters and signage, and playing PA announcements with key COVID-19 messages.

14. Providing in depth internal communication with staff about what was required of them.

15. Closing some departments: the Patisserie (later partially reopened - but still not taking any custom cake orders), The Cafe in store, also The Hungry Fox Cafe on Wirraway Road.

16. Opening The Kitchen - a takeaway only business serving coffee, sandwiches, pastries and readymade meals that fit within food service guidelines.

17. Minimal job cuts - especially with The Hungry Fox staff. Some of these were redeployed to the supermarket.

The measures were dynamic and they changed as the situation changed.
Despite these measures, on Friday 10th July 2020, during the second lockdown, LaManna announced via their email list and their Facebook account that they would close the store for deep cleaning due to four staff being confirmed with acquiring COVID-19. They would close for four days to allow for the store to be completely cleaned and even provided a link to the company, method and product [1] that they would use. They had "not only met but exceeded every directive from the Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS) to deal with this issue." (LaManna email list and Facebook post, Friday 10 July 2020.)
Although not part of the 'hotspot' locations for the second wave of community transmitted COVID-19 cases in Victoria in June and July 2020, their store in Essendon Fields was surrounded by locked down suburbs and many of their staff and customers resided in those areas.
Again they stressed the importance of protecting their staff and customers as their main priority. They asked for any customers who had visited the store on Sunday 5th July 2020, the last day that any of the four had worked at the store, and felt unwell to get tested and isolate. A day later on Saturday 11th July they announced another staff member acquired COVID-19. By the end of that weekend they announced that the DHHS had suggested that they self-isolate all employees at LaManna and that they would not reopen until at least Monday 27th July. On Monday 20 July 2020 a DHHS media release reported that they had 20 cases amongst the staff.
In their messages, LaManna stressed that upon reopening there would be enhanced cleaning processes within the store [2]. When the store did reopen on Tuesday 28th July 2020, La Manna introduced additional measures for the safety of their staff and customers, and to make sure that the store didn't close again: reduced trading hours; only 50% of their staff on site at any one time; disinfecting cleans in every department, every hour and deep cleans throughout the whole store twice a week after hours; and reiterating the use of masks, hand sanitiser, and the 1.5 metre social distance within the store. The remainder of the second lockdown passed without any known cases linked to the store.
"Everything is done via the family here at LaManna. And the way we did that, like I said, that family mentality: our shop is our home. And our customers, they are our family. Just like our staff. And we needed to protect everyone." (Senior LaManna Manager.)


Interview with Senior LaManna Manager, Thursday 11 June 2020.

LaManna email list and Facebook posts on Friday 10 July, Saturday 11 July, Sunday 12 July 2020, Friday 24 July 2020.

Department of Health & Human Services Media Release.
accessed 21 July 2020.

[1] GM Pest Solutions; misting solution via a cold fogger machine; alkaline no rinse disinfectant Viri-Dis (1:64) (LaManna email list and Facebook post, Friday 10 July 2020.)

[2] More frequent cleaning of heavily trafficked areas both front and back of house, social distancing by limiting the number of staff working together and the number of customers in the store (LaManna email list and Facebook post, Friday 10 July 2020.)

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