Authored by: Justin Freeland (Senior Marketing Operations Specialist)
Keeping up with supply chain challenges is like playing whack-a-mole. Every time you think you’ve got it covered, another food shortage crops up. How’s a restaurant operator supposed to maintain a consistent menu in the face of sheer chaos?
The solution: Get creative. There are practical steps you can take right now to smooth over supply chain pandemonium and keep a predictable menu, week in and week out.
This article is about:
- Why COVID is to blame for your supply chain blues
- What the future holds for supply chains in 2022
- Practical tips you can use right now to start smoothing over supply chain chaos
Let’s dive right in.
The Supply Chains Have Come Loose. Here’s Why
Source: National Restaurant Association
If you’re running out of food, you’re in good company—a survey by the National Restaurant Association stated that 96% of restaurant operators have experienced shortages in food or drink supplies recently. What’s causing all this disruption in the world’s supply chain?
A large part is due to the aftereffects of COVID:
- During the global pandemic, the economy ground to a halt as people hunkered down. In response, shipping companies cut the scale of their operations.
- The world may be opening up again, but restarting an economy after COVID isn’t simple. It takes time for shipping companies to get back to full speed and for supply lines to become more resilient.
- In the meantime, we’re stuck with shipping bottlenecks around the world, a severe lack of shipping containers, and the resulting shortage of food and equipment supplies in the restaurant industry.
Next up, we talked to a representative from food supplier Ben E. Keith and got perspective on supply chain disruption, as well as some actionable advice.
The Supply Chain Crisis Is Here To Stay
Sam from Ben E. Keith (BEK) explained to us that supply chain disruption is widespread across the food supplier’s network: “It’s a different customer every week. We’re losing main items frequently. But people understand this—there’s a sense of acceptance and realization.”
Sam recommends that restaurateurs diversify their suppliers. Be careful about who you’re locked into a contract with—if it’s a big company (like Cisco) then they’re tied to their sources. And if that source is out of lettuce, then you’re out of lettuce, no matter what.
“We’re here for the long haul. Everyone’s going to adjust and look back, but I don’t see it going back down anytime soon. The buying team I work with say we’re going to be dealing with this through 2022, and likely 2023.” —Kyle, Ben E. Keith
But with smaller or family-owned companies (like BEK), you have freedom. If a source is out of lettuce, the supplier can go anywhere to find that lettuce for you. That means you’re more likely to be able to keep a consistent menu.
Smooth Over Supply Chain Shortages With These Three Action Steps
The supply chain crisis isn’t about to disappear so you need to confront it head-on. We tapped into our restaurant industry connections for three tips you can try out right now. Take these steps to start thriving—despite supply chain chaos:
- Communicate More Clearly. Get to know your suppliers’ customer service teams and preempt shortages. If suppliers know your business, your key items, and any preemptive substitutions (i.e., chicken for beef or cabbage for lettuce) then you’ll save valuable time.
- Cut Waste. Make the most of the food you have and save 2–6% on costs by cutting waste. Things like oversized portions, poor food storage, and letting scraps and food byproducts go to waste are easy to fix. Plus, customers appreciate restaurants that make an effort to go green.
- Prepare For Failure. Equipment like walk-in fridges and glassware are harder to source than ever. Restaurant owners that have backups for key pieces of equipment before they break down are going to be OK—the long wait won’t phase you and you’ll be set when something does go wrong.
Dealing with the supply chain crisis isn’t easy and this advice is just the tip of the iceberg.
The Trifecta Toolkit: Your Guide To Staying Afloat In Today’s Turbulent Waters
Supply chain disruptions have affected everyone in the restaurant industry, but they’re just one of the many challenges that restaurants are struggling with in the wake of the pandemic.
That’s why we created The Trifecta Toolkit. Our team of restaurant industry experts have been in the trenches helping businesses of all sizes fight back. We’ve seen what works and what doesn’t. And we’re offering this eBook to you—for free—to level the playing field.
Sick of supply chain, inflation, and labor shortages?