How to Manage Your Restaurant’s Supply Chain

With the COVID-19 pandemic still running rampant through America and showing no signs of slowing down, restaurants have had everything affected from their customer base up to the top of their supply chains. More frequently, they’ve had to go elsewhere to restock besides their usual vendors.

Drops in demand, like the one the restaurant industry has experienced since the pandemic turned many customers off of dining out, naturally affects the entire supply chain. Vendors had too much product like eggs, milk and produce but nobody to sell it to; and those that did need ingredients were suddenly in an unprecedented financial bind.

For restaurant owners, pivoting business to takeout, curbside pickup and delivery meant having to rework every aspect of their operations—including how they get more inventory. In unprecedented times, restaurants have to rework their supply chains to not only better suit the situation they’re in now, but also to plan for a future when we, eventually, go back to “normal,” whatever normal looks like by then.

What Restaurateurs Can Do

You should expand their supply network so that you have a fallback plan in case someone in your current chain experiences a holdup with product or delivery, as is bound to happen in times like these. This doesn’t mean forsaking your current connections but rather expanding your horizons so you have more sources to rely on if there’s a hiccup.

  • Online sources are growing in popularity because of the pandemic, as people become more concerned about interacting face-to-face. Instead, about 40% of restaurants now order from online vendors at least once a month.
  • Connect with producers. When the world safely reopens for good, demand is going to skyrocket and distributors will become overwhelmed with the sudden boom. It will be good to have alternatives so you can still get supplies when orders are backed up.
  • Plan for the future. While demand is down, take the slow business cycle as an opportunity to look ahead. Learn your restaurant inside and out, including your business plan, your books and accounting, applications for financial relief if you need it, and your plans for rehiring and retraining staff when the time comes.
  • Adjust operations. We live in a world of social distancing and heightened health concerns, and your most basic operations will have to change to accommodate these new considerations which will likely dominate the consumer marketplace even after this particular threat has passed. You might have to update your facilities, factor PPE and disposable product costs into your budget, or update your sanitization system for added sustainability.
  • Technology is more important to struggling restaurants than ever before. With recent years’ advancements, high-tech devices can smooth some of the disruption that COVID-19 has caused by tracking sales, analyzing your online ordering systems, streamlining targeted marketing and more. Technology helps you balance the unstable supply chain and consumer trends to create a more harmonious and efficient business, one that can survive this difficult year.

Major food distribution companies control most of the supply chain even now, so it’s important for restaurants to have a variety of reliable backups while the market is in flux, the economy constantly trends up and down with no widespread regulations surrounding safe reopenings, and the future remains so very uncertain. Planning ahead is the best way to get a solid handle on the innate volatility of today’s supply chains and stabilize your restaurant, as much as is possible, for the uncertain months to come. When in doubt, cover all your bases and get ready for anything.

Editor's Picks