Lagging distributors send restaurants grocery shopping
Customers have been visiting restaurants more frequently in the U.S., even as the Delta variant of the novel coronavirus continues to thwart plans for an anticipated return to normal. Restaurants, however, are running into problems getting the ingredients they need to conduct business as semi-usual. Supply chain disruptions are forcing them to make unexpected changes to their menus and take hits to their margins.
In one example cited by a CNN article, the owner of a Middle Eastern restaurant in Vermont drove to a Whole Foods 3.5 hours away in Boston and paid twice the wholesale cost to get pita bread, due to a last-minute halted order from distributor Sysco. In another example, an upscale New York City restaurateur has begun substituting different varieties of vegetables into menu items due to distributor shortages and now puts in orders to multiple distributors, assuming that some orders will fall through.
Similar problems have been reported in Portland, OR, where an owner of a mom-and-pop restaurant told a Fox affiliate that she was having difficulties finding products as common as lettuce and spinach from big food distributors like U.S. Foods. Orders for calamari and blue cheese end up being pushed back indefinitely.
In the UK, despite the country’s full reopening in mid-July, supply chain interruptions have become so severe that they are forcing some restaurants to temporarily close locations, according to Reuters. QSR chain Nando’s has closed 40 UK locations due to chicken supply chain disruptions.
Earlier in the novel coronavirus pandemic, when the first round of indoor dining shutdowns left many U.S. restaurants wondering how to continue doing business, some big grocers stepped in to help keep them afloat. SpartanNash, H-E-B and Rouses Markets all launched programs that brought pre-made meals from restaurants to their store shelves.
Restaurants also altered their operations in other ways to address pandemic-era shakeups.
Large chain restaurants and small local operators, for example, began selling groceries alongside their takeout menus. This helped restaurants stay in business while meeting the needs of customers who were having trouble finding specific staples at grocery stores.
- These restaurants are facing ingredient shortages. Here’s how they’re coping – CNN
- Portland restaurants struggle to get food, product amid pandemic-related shortages – Fox 12
- Nando’s shuts over 40 UK outlets due to supply chain hit – Reuters
- Can grocers help sit down restaurants stay afloat with to-go meal programs? – RetailWire
- Will selling groceries help restaurants ride out COVID-19? – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Is there a way that grocers, farmers markets and the like can step in to partner with restaurants to help address these supply chain/distributor problems? Do restaurants run the risk of incurring significant damage as supply chain disruptions continue, and how can they mitigate them?