Recent concerns about a looming food shortage crisis have probably gotten you a bit stressed out if you’re a restaurant operator or food business owner. After the disruptions caused by the recent pandemic, the business world appeared to be slowly recovering from global supply chain challenges until inflation threw a surprise jab that pretty much caught most business owners by surprise. Since the summer of the previous year, 2021, widespread disruptions to the supply chain have dominated headlines, both in the UK and globally.
While the 2021 UK Food Security Report indicated some resilience against food supply chain issues, uncertainty still looms, especially regarding long-term supply. According to the report, any problem that may arise in the UK’s food supply chain system can cause a massive disruption in the food supply, which is not something you want to hear if you’re a food business owner. So, whether you own a restaurant, a grocery store, or any other food-related business, your first line of defence is to secure your business from any potential supply chain issues. Here are a few ways you can do that to achieve the best results.
Unlike other business sectors, the food industry gets the shorter end of the stick when it comes to storage. Other businesses can consider stocking up for years, but food business owners can’t consider that, as most foodstuffs have comparatively shorter shelf lives. Also, food operators generally prefer to stock up on fresh products. The last thing you want is to buy food products and save them without proper planning. And this is where analytics and forecasts can help you. While it may be impossible to predict how demand will turn out in the future, you can use data you already have to gauge or forecast.
And that will help you make smarter decisions about what products to have more of at what period. You can use data from previous years or months to forecast customer demand trends for specific periods. For example, you can identify what specific products you tend to sell more, for how long, and during which periods. You can also determine how many customers troop in your business at which periods. This way, you plan and emphasise purchasing the specific ingredients in the right quantities you know you will need.
If you’re a restaurant owner, you may find yourself with no other option but to pull off some dishes from your menu. And you don’t want to lose your favourite customers simply because you can no longer serve some dishes. But this is where your creativity should come in. instead of folding your arms in resignation, find creative ways to make menu substitutions and introduce the changes to your customers. Don’t get it wrong; the idea isn’t necessary to replace an entire dish with something else. The aim is to tweak the ingredients a little. For example, you can use beef instead of pork for a recipe if you can still maintain the integrity of that dish.
However, if you can’t find any substitute ingredient that makes it possible to maintain the integrity of your dish, then you can consider changing that dish entirely. Of course, not everyone will like to try something new, but this is where the next point comes in.
You don’t want to catch your customers by surprise with the new changes. Few things are more frustrating than a hungry customer hoping to enjoy their favourite meal only to be told it’s no longer available, but they can “try this instead.” Communicate any new changes to your customers proactively, and take the opportunity to advertise the new dishes. This way, customers know what new dishes they can expect when they walk into your client or order online. Some customers may visit your restaurant with the sole purpose of trying that new dish you advertised.
But don’t limit your diversification to your menu alone. Consider diversifying your partners and suppliers also. If you rely only on one supplier for your food products and raw materials, that’s one bad move you need to change immediately. Maybe you have a strong partnership or relationship with your current supplier; that’s understandable. But while it’s important to build a strong business relationship with one partner, nothing should stop you from creating other strong relationships with different suppliers. Doing this is important because, should one supplier or your main supplier fail to deliver on future obligations, you can turn to another partner to fill that gap, even if it’s temporary.
In the face of supply chain issues, you need to analyse your customer demands to find out which products or dishes sell the most, are the most profitable, or can thrive even under disruptions. Understand which dishes or products drive sales and which ones eat too much into your profit margins. Armed with such data, you can make informed decisions about raising the price of the more profitable dishes based on the disruptions in your supply chain. This way, you can ride the disruption waves while making the profit your business needs to continue operating in times of shortages.
If there’s a time to take charge of your food logistics and inventory, now is that time. You should be able to track your stock, as that will help you know how many supplies you have available and what to order more of at any given time. It will also help you lower your food expenses and prepare for any potential disruptions in your supplies. Managing your inventory manually is possible, but you will create more room for human error. Plus, it can be very time-consuming.
You can use automation or an inventory management system to track your supply purchases, production levels, how much you have sold, and how much has gone to waste. Automating your inventory management will make managing or minimising production waste easy, so keep this in mind. That’s because you will have data-backed insight to place orders for only the supplies your business needs. And if you’re facing supply chain disruptions, micromanaging your inventory will prove crucial.
Managing your supply chain is more than managing who you get your supplies from and how much. It also involves having a comprehensive look at your entire supply chain process, from how you place your orders to the finished product on your shelves or the customer’s plate. The aim here is to identify and understand any potential source of disruption at any point in the supply chain. You can monitor them and prevent or minimise any potential risk, so keep this in mind.
As mentioned previously, investing in an inventory management system is important, but you can also focus on adding any other supply chain technology that offers you a comprehensive view of your supply food chain. Such technology can pick on warning signs in your supply chain that your manual labour may miss. You will receive early warning signs of any potential disruption and have the data you need to make the right calls to avoid those disruptions.
Dealing with supply chain disruptions and watching your stocks go bad in your storage spaces is a recipe for disaster. Buying your supplies bulk from wholesale food suppliers is a great way to reduce costs and increase your profit margin in the food service industry. But to make that possible, you must also master the techniques of keeping your supplies fresh until you need them. This way, you will avoid spending too much money ordering supplies. Plus, you will have some stock to rely on for a short period when some supplies are not available.
You first want to identify the causes of reduced shelf life in your business and how to solve them. Next, research the best ways to extend the shelf of your supplies. There are a few methods you can try, including:
- Invest in a good freezer. The best type will depend on your business size and how many supplies you need at a time. So, focus on the freezer capacity, defrosting features, and other organisational features.
- Organise your storage areas on your storage shelves, refrigerators, or deep freezers. Also, adopt the “first in, first out” (FIFO) rule to lower the chances of supplies going bad without being noticed. You can consider rotating your stock and using them according to when they were delivered, so keep this in mind.
- Invest in better packaging or work with a supplier that uses it. Better packaging, in this case, means using containers that control respiration rate, ripening, and microbial growth. It also includes controlling oxidation by removing the oxygen in the packages, so feel free to consider this.
If you’re nervous about supply chain management and potential issues with sourcing ingredients, look no further than Freshways. We pride ourselves on providing all our commercial customers with the freshest, highest quality ingredients possible, promising timely delivery and total transparency at every stage of the supply chain. Contact us today to learn more about our products and discover how we do things here at Freshways.