When the COVID-19 pandemic first began in March, I immediately scheduled a meeting with my crisis management team. I was actually still on maternity leave so I was doing this remotely. We also scheduled our first zoom meeting with all the employees to give them an opportunity to voice their concerns and address them immediately. We tried to accommodate all our employees’ requests as much as we can to make sure they are safe. Some of the challenges we faced were keeping up with demand, getting employees to come to work, and obtaining masks and hand sanitizers.
The pandemic had really helped my family’s business because people were panic buying our products. Our sales increased significantly and it was difficult to keep up with demand with less workers. Like many other essential workers, our employees were afraid to come to work but once they saw that we were taking extra steps to keep them safe like providing masks and other PPE, taking employee temperatures, extra cleaning and sanitizing, they felt more comfortable coming in. We also provided a weekly incentive pay. To keep our employees safe from outside visitors, we also implemented curbside pick-up for our customers and only allowed service reps for necessary repairs.
We were ahead of the curve. Since Caribbean Food Delights is a USDA-inspected plant and were already following food safety guidelines like washing hands, wearing gloves, cleaning and sanitizing, etc., the additional things we needed were face masks, face shields, infrared thermometers, hand sanitizers, and stronger cleaning supplies. Before the masks were mandated, we already started using them at work, including face shields, which we provided to our employees early on. We were practicing social distancing where possible, allowing eligible employees to work remotely, and taking employees’ temperatures before most companies started doing that. If anyone had a fever, they were asked to go home and get tested before returning to work. Just before the apex was expected to happen, we voluntarily closed our plant for two weeks and paid all employees for those two weeks. To help support struggling businesses in our community, we have been purchasing lunch for all of our employees every week, since April, including the first responders and healthcare workers. We donated masks and hand sanitizers to organizations that needed them. I also serve on Governor Cuomo’s New York Forward Re-Opening Advisory Board.
Currently, we are back to producing normal levels of inventory and all employees are at work. We have hired about 35 more employees since the pandemic started.
It is heartbreaking to see the unrest that is going on in our communities, while we struggle to recover from a pandemic that has blindsided us and forced us to adapt as quickly as possible to survive. The recent senseless, tragedy of George Floyd and many others has caused an explosion of years of anger and frustration over the abuse of power and authority, and it touches all of us in a way that we cannot sit still. No one should have to fear for their life and or be treated unjustly because of the color of their skin. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."
At Royal Caribbean Bakery and Caribbean Food Delights, we are proud to have a diverse workforce and we will continue to be fair, inclusive and considerate to foster a culture in which our employees feel respected and comfortable in speaking up. I have encouraged our management team to reach out to all employees to see how everyone is feeling and how we can help our employees cope during this difficult time. As for our community, we are always here to help in whatever ways we can. We are here for you.