Due to the pandemic, restaurants found ways to stay open with online ordering and pickup when restaurants went into lockdown. But at the same time, operators had to adjust menus or scale back due to increasing supply chain issues.
With more online ordering and dining rooms reopened, customers are eating at restaurants more than before the lockdown.
The problem is supply chain issues persist even into 2022.
A November survey from the National Restaurant Association showed 96 percent of operators experienced supply delays or shortages of key food or beverage items in recent months. Another 8 in 10 said they faced similar problems with equipment or service items.
The problem is that labor shortages have created major supply chain issues everywhere, from global shipping to trucking on national and local levels.
Restaurants have to get creative to get by. Everything from using the food restaurateurs have on hand to going with new suppliers or supporting local, including buying food from their local grocery.
Supplying the food or ingredients to a specific dish is either a steady stream of inventory or not coming in at all. Most times, the supply is hit or miss.
The new normal means owners need to operate in the best way possible. Customers may come in, and much of what they usually have may still be a staple menu ingredient. They may not even notice that the owner substituted an ingredient from another source.
Survival means owners have to come up with various restaurant supply chain solutions.
What is true is owners are creating smaller menus or cutting back on menu items completely because the flow of incoming ingredients is too uncertain.
There are solutions, and owners have to be inventive.
Here are some ways to plan and become innovative to keep your restaurant ahead of supply chain issues.
Restaurant Inventory: Planning The Right Way
Customer demands will always dictate how your restaurant operates. Adding in food supply issues aggravates the need and challenges of being a savvy owner.
In addition, you have to look for the lowest cost on what supplies you can get to keep your menu prices down.
Suppliers will work on a first order, first to receive basis, so owners can order early and reserve their spot in line.
This can also lead to simple substitutions by the vendor to keep a steady supply flow.
Products with a longer shelf life like frozen foods, potatoes, and coffee are something you can order in abundance and keep on hand.
That sounds easy enough, but we are talking about supply shortages, and when faced with an issue, you can market your restaurant to what is attainable.
Analyzing what products you have on hand and what can be ordered is crucial for your restaurant. If you have no problem getting sandwich rolls, but sub rolls are in short supply, then order more sandwich rolls and adjust your marketing efforts accordingly toward sandwiches for customers.
The most significant switch in product was Dallas-based Wingstop which marketed and offered thighs to combat the wing shortage. Thighs were easy to supply and offered the customer a new flavor experience.
Even KFC switched from boneless chicken and hyper-marketed its original bone-in chicken.
As an independent restaurant owner, you can switch up any of your proteins your customers enjoy. If you’re known for the best burgers in town, but ground beef is in short supply, offer a new line of turkey burgers.
Your POS system needs to be fully up-to-date to get ahead on ordering supplies. Data reporting and inventory management are essential for your restaurant’s survival. You can order products from your restaurant’s cooler, the office, or on the couch at home through a cloud-based system.
Menu Changes: When The Supply Chain Gives You Lemons, Make Lemon Cake
You have your supplies, you’ve put your orders in for the future, you’ve decided to switch from fries to sweet potato fries because that’s all you could get.
Now you have to adjust your menu.
For independent owners, physically changing the menu may be a daunting task.
You have a printed menu and the deviation to sweet potato fries isn’t on that version. In supply chain shortages, your best bet is to break away from the glossy, physical menu and begin printing your own menu.
As an owner, you should regularly analyze your menu regardless of supply chain issues. Running regular reports through your POS management system gives you insight on what’s selling and what isn’t, what preferences have changed with customers, and any costs you need to change.
If you’ve made it through the supply chain issues without changing your menu, you’re lucky. But you will have to change. As many as 75% of restaurants have made menu changes because of supply chain challenges.
But don’t sweat the menu changes. Turn it around and make it a positive.
First, give your customers new alternatives. What’s wrong with a burger and sweet potato fries? How about that omelet with Monterey Jack instead of cheddar?
As a local restaurant, see if you can work with a local market to get supplies or ingredients. If you have braised beef on the menu, perhaps work with a local microbrewery and use the beer in your braised beef recipe.
When supply chain issues hit, focus on a new opportunity for your restaurant. You now can be creative with your supply and come up with new items you, or your chef, never thought of before.
- Create feature items or specials based on the supplies you can get. Consumers love the experience of new specials and variety.
- Use social media to take a picture and highlight a special dish.
- Gauge the effectiveness of the featured items and ask for feedback. You may end up with a new mainstay for your menu.
- Creating a popular special could help offset any rising costs due to short-supply or hard-to-get items.
Changing your restaurant’s menu doesn’t have to be a time-consuming process. With the proper software, you can make easy changes that keep employees on the same page, show creativity to your customers, and help raise your profits.
The biggest question around the restaurant industry is, “how long will supply chain issues continue?” And depending on which source you rely on, it can last anywhere from the start of 2023 until eternity.
In other words, there is no answer. Because nobody knows.
As an owner, you have to take matters into your own hands and control what you can control.
To counterbalance restaurant supply chain issues, data and menu management technology can help you and your staff keep track of items in stock. Based on what you have, and what items you can get, our menu management solution allows you to easily adjust.
You can easily hide dishes from customers when items are out of stock by using the quick menu edit feature. If a product order is fulfilled, then it’s easy to put the dish back on the menu.
You can be creative with the products you can get to introduce a new appetizer or entree. Our all-in-one POS provides your restaurant with everything from online ordering and in-person dining to inventory and scheduling staff.
For more on supply chain issues, labor shortages, and digitizing your restaurant download our eBook Restaurant Trends 2022: Industry Insights For The New Year & Beyond.