5 Ways to Safeguard Your Restaurant’s Supply Chain

The words SUPPLY CHAIN surrounded by connected concepts, including supplier, consumer, and logistics.

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Learn how to thrive amid the effects of inflation, product shortages, and the lingering pandemic on your restaurant’s supply chain.

The past two years have been a rollercoaster for restaurants. Despite their best efforts amid the pandemic, many businesses didn’t survive the lockdowns and subsequent labor shortages. For those that did, it’s been a slow process of closing all the gaps.

Now, rising inflation, product shortages, and the threat of another economic recession are all undermining the global supply chain and adding to the burdens of an already stressed industry.

And that’s not even considering the evidence that America has more open jobs than it does available workers.

Fortunately, restaurants can both survive and thrive amid these difficulties.

Below, I lay out 5 things restaurant operators can do to help mitigate the ongoing effects of the global supply chain crisis.

1. Reduce your restaurant’s waste

Fresh produce and grains around a chalkboard that reads ZERO WASTE.

Every item that you throw away is money wasted. By finding ways to reduce waste, you can stretch out the usefulness of the things you buy and save money in the process.

Here’s how to get started:

  1. Each week, forecast your sales for the following week.
  2. Then, go back and look at how well you did.
  3. Ask yourself whether you overestimated your need for certain products or underestimated your need for others.
  4. If so, figure out why and adjust your next forecast accordingly.
  5. Swap out any products that consistently result in waste – or get creative and find ways to use the excess.

For example, try using veggies in hearty soups or leftover bread for salad croutons.

And don’t forget that time is money, which means wasted time is also wasted money.

Use your sales forecasts to build your labor schedules so that you have the right people in the right places at the right times.

(And if you live in a tip credit state, don’t forget about the latest 80/20 rules. Nothing is a bigger waste of time and money than getting hit with avoidable fines.)

2. Use and promote sustainable products

A local grocer in an apron next to a chalkboard that reads BUY LOCAL.

Using locally-sourced and sustainable products can help your restaurant in two ways:

  1. First, locally-sourced goods can protect your supply chain from the current instability of the global market.
  2. Second, sustainable products can help attract socially-conscious guests to your restaurant.

The key is to make sure to advertise. If consumers don’t know that you use local ingredients, they can’t make an informed choice.

Also, keep in mind that reusable items can dramatically reduce your non-food product costs.

For example, you could encourage your customers to bring their own drink containers (or to buy reusable containers from you). This could help cut down on the amount of paper or plastic cups you need to buy.

3. Reevaluate your restaurant’s menu

A restaurant menu written on a chalkboard.

Now that the worst of the pandemic seems to be over, it’s a good time to reevaluate your menu.

In particular, think about how you can

  1. use ingredients across different menu items, and
  2. make use of products that are easier to prepare or less expensive to source.

For example, consider swapping out fruits and veggies that are out-of-season for those that are currently in-season. Again, buy local if you can, and don’t forget to let your guests know when you’re supporting local businesses.

You might also consider using an inventory and recipe management system.

A good system can help you identify weak links in your restaurant’s menu so that you can make the most of the current supply chain.

4. Diversify your supplier base

A restaurant or bar operator on the phone with a tablet in hand.

As the saying goes, you should never put all your eggs in one basket.

This advice is as relevant to your restaurant’s supply chain as it is to any other aspect of your business.

Having multiple suppliers for each key ingredient or product ensures that you can continue to source the items you need even if one vendor is having difficulties.

5. Strengthen your relationships with vendors

A restaurant operator smiling as she shakes a vendor's hand.

Last but not least, it’s important to foster strong relationships with your vendors. Not only that, but to see them as long-term partners rather than simply as solution providers.

Strong partnerships can help your restaurant stay afloat in stormy weather. They’ll assist you in working difficult problems and will open up new networks and additional resources so that you’ll have alternatives if and when your supply chain is disrupted.

And a truly valuable partner will always suggest the best solutions for your problem, even if it’s not their own product or service.

This is something we do here at TimeForge.

If our product isn’t the right one, for example, we’ll happily refer you to other trustworthy vendors that will fit the bill and take good care of your business.

You don’t have to safeguard your supply chain alone

The global supply chain may be uncertain, but by strengthening your fundamentals – including your vendor relationships, menu, labor, and products – you can create a more efficient restaurant. One that will not only survive but thrive amid the difficulties and leave you better prepared to meet future challenges, too.

The good news is, you don’t have to go it alone.

Build trust with your vendors, and you’ll be able to weather even the worst storms.

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