The restaurant supply chain is crucial to your operations. If your suppliers cannot deliver your ingredients or supplies, it can lead to:

  • Lower sales
  • Unhappy customers
  • Bad reputation

Shortages during the pandemic found over 96% of operators had either supply shortages or delays. If you’re a pizza and rib restaurant and you have no ribs, imagine what happens to your eatery’s reputation.

You’ll be left with a lot of unhappy customers who don’t understand the supply chain of a restaurant – at all.

While you only have so much control over your supply chain, you can take proactive steps to help deal with future issues. We're going to outline key steps that you can take to lower the risk of restaurant supply chain issues impacting your company.

supply chain restaurant

7 Ways to Deal with Supply Chain Disruptions 

If you want to avoid supply chain disruptions in your restaurant, the following strategies will help. Even when supplies are flowing in without issue, it’s a smart choice to integrate these tips into your eatery.

1. Control and Automate Inventory Management

What inventory do you have on hand? Are you wasting supplies? Tens of billions of pounds of food go to waste in the United States annually. There’s a good chance that you produce a lot of waste, too.

Strict inventory management and control allows you to:

  • Reduce waste
  • Stock just the food you need
  • Strengthen your supply chain

Managing your stock keeps costs lower and also allows you to manage your menu. For example, if you offer a food item that 1% of customers buy, is it worth sourcing these ingredients if they’re not used in another food option?

2. Be Vague with Your Menu Descriptions

Restaurant supply chain management benefits from vague menu descriptions. You may offer a fruit salad, but once you name every fruit in the salad, you’re bound by the description. For example, if you state that the salad has pineapple in it and you can’t source this ingredient, it’s problematic if anyone chooses to order it.

By being vague and saying, “fruit salad,” you can add or omit items as necessary.

You can even opt to use this vague description to reduce food waste by adding fruits that are closer to spoiling to the salad.

Other items that can be vague are:

  • Vegetables or seasonal vegetables
  • Protein
  • Toppings

3. Be Flexible with Your Menu

If your restaurant menu is set in stone, it leaves little room for you to be able to adapt it during supply chain issues. For example, you may not be able to source a specific item due to:

  • Economic conditions
  • Drought
  • Etc.

And while the ingredients may be available 99% of the time, once they’re no longer available, you have to stop selling the item or explain to each customer why you have to omit a certain ingredient.

We recommend offering editable menus.

You can even offer your customers the opportunity to customize their dishes. Perhaps the customer won’t mind an alternative ingredient and would prefer it over the one that you mentioned.

Soups are a great example of a flexible menu item.

You'll find many restaurants offer a “soup of the day.” Why? The soup will allow the chef to use random ingredients that may be on their way to spoiling.

Restaurants can also offer vague ingredients, such as “your choice of protein.” When the person asks if they can have chicken and you don’t have any, you can tell them no, but you have steak or turkey that they can add.

Flexible menus will strengthen your restaurant against potential supply chain issues.

restaurant supply chain management

4. Work with Local Vendors

One of the most effective solutions to supply chain problems is to work with local vendors or go to farms directly for your ingredients. By shortening the supply chain, you reduce the risk of disruptions.

5. Improve Your Waste Management

Restaurants produce a whopping 22-33 billion pounds of food waste every year. Waste is a huge problem, and it’s one that can hurt your bottom line even more if there are supply chain issues.

By taking steps to improve your waste management, you can:

  • Maximize each ingredient
  • Reduce your costs

One way to enhance your waste management is to find new and creative uses for each part of your ingredients. Doing so will allow you to create new and unique dishes or additions to your existing menu items.

Another effective way to improve your waste management is to pay attention to how customers are interacting with the dishes on your menu. Are there sides that customers consistently leave behind on their plates, or maybe some of your menu items really aren’t popular with customers. 

It may make more sense to remove these items from your menu entirely. Not only will you save on costs, but you won’t have to worry about securing those ingredients if supply chain issues arise.

6. Work with Multiple Vendors

Supply chain issues happen – there's really no way to have a fully secure restaurant supply chain – but that doesn’t mean you can’t be prepared for them. One way to prepare is to build relationships with multiple vendors. If one falls through, you have another vendor you can reach out to and, hopefully, secure the supplies you need.

Working with multiple vendors is more complex, but it will give you an advantage if supply chain issues arise. 

One thing to consider with this strategy is you may not always get the same level of quality from every vendor. 

7. Offer Specials

Offering specials is a great way to work around foodservice supply chain issues by allowing you to create dishes with the ingredients you already have on hand. By taking this approach, you can still ensure customers continue to have a great experience even if supply chain issues prevent you from offering your most popular dishes.

Consider creating specials that use simple ingredients that are easy to get your hands on.

Final Thoughts

Managing supply chain disruptions can be challenging for restaurants. Having a plan, working with multiple vendors and being flexible with your menu can help you overcome these challenges without compromising on the customer experience.