At FDR, we are hearing from our restaurant clients that proteins in general are short, especially pork and turkey, as well as cold sauces, dressings, and dips. We are also seeing many national/global restaurant brands downsize their R&D and culinary departments. Companies that used to have a buyer for each category are now working with one single buyer.
Restaurant Food Shortages
Add on top of this that individual restaurant operations are short-staffed. You’ve probably heard.
No ingredients (I) + Not enough buyers (B) + Not enough line cooks (C) = Hard times for the restaurant industry (No Duh)
We are writing this article in September 2022. That’s an important fact because supply chain shortages and delays are not only rampant at this moment – they are changing fast, and they have been changing rapidly since we embarked on this COVID adventure two and a half years ago. What is true right now may not be true next month, and probably wasn’t true in previous years when we were talking about ghost kitchens and PPI shortages.
What will always be true, though, is that there are solutions to supply chain issues that don’t require operators to clean out local grocery stores. Here’s what we suggest.
When facing shortages, often the first thing to go is food quality. To avoid that you’ll need to be flexible and match products to shortages.
- Substitute one oil for another
- Choose a different cut of beef
- Get adventurous with out-of-the-box flavors – fresh hibiscus may be lovely, but so is a simple rose syrup
It may not be obvious what will work as a match for a particular ingredient. FDR can help you with that. We have a long-standing partnership with over 150 manufacturing partners and would be happy to direct you to the right alternative or help find the right partner to commercialize your proprietary items.
Speaking of which…
Commercialize Your Own Products
When your brand creates its own food items through the commercialization process, you’ll save money. Your operators will reduce prep time and menu items will be more consistent – no secret there.
You’re not likely to get much credit for your spice blends, sauces, and similar food items anyway. It’s good business sense to commercialize your routinely used or proprietary products.
Of course, it’s not great to pre-produce all food. Your customers will notice fresh-cut herbs and freshly prepared vegetables. Focus on what matters.
Simplify With Prepared Foods From Manufacturers
Whatever gap you face on your menu, a quality food manufacturer can help fill it. Here are a few examples:
- If you need pre-cooked chicken that a line cook can prepare quickly, Cuisine Solutions has a product that is convenient and tastes great.
- Want a high-quality sauce or mac-n-cheese that is ready to heat, Custom Foods of America can match your signature product.
- Outstanding smoked baby back ribs? We can steer you to Maple Leaf Farms.
High-quality prepared foods will assist in cutting down on prep time, labor, and even the build-out size of the kitchen.
Downsize Your Menu
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, food prices are up 10.8 percent for the year ending April 2022. This is the largest 12-month increase since November 1980.
To find ways to reduce your costs look at labor as well as product yield and waste. Where can you adjust portion sizes? How can you downsize your menu? Reduce the number of your SKUs?
Not only will this save you money, but it will also help alleviate some of those ingredient shortage pains.
Limited Time Offers / Special Menus
Restaurants rely on limited-time offers and specials for a number of reasons. Maximizing exposure to the foods you do have is one of those reasons, and it’s a good one.
Most of you have garnered new customers during the pandemic through delivery food systems. LTOs or special menus provide you with new food news to keep your new customers engaged with your brand.
Be Transparent With Operators And Customers
We are all in this together. Problem is that many frontline workers and customers don’t know the full story. A note on your website and menu along with a sign in the lobby will go a long way to remind people you’re doing your best with limited supplies and workforce. Say, thanks in advance for understanding.