Focus on flexibility as supply chain challenge continues

New figures show, as if we needed any more proof, that the supply chain challenges facing catering and hospitality businesses are being experienced right across the sector:

  • 99% of businesses are experiencing supply chain issues;
  • 88% are being offered reduced product lines by suppliers;
  • 84% have had some product deliveries fail to arrive;
  • 82% have seen product deliveries delayed;
  • 68% say access to products is a particular issue.

These issues are also contributing to inflationary pressures:

  • 82% of businesses are seeing higher supply chain costs;
  • 73% say food costs have risen;
  • 72% report increases in product areas including cleaning supplies;
  • 68% have seen utilities costs increase.

The various factors that have come together to deliver the problems we’re facing are now widely understood. They include labour shortages right through the supply chain; high fuel and transport costs; the HGV driver shortage; ongoing covid disruption; and the post-Brexit import challenge.

It’s clear what the issues are, but what can operators do about them? The big picture will need to be addressed by the government, working with the full range of trade bodies, to find practical ways to open up the various bottlenecks in the systems, but that will take time.

As operators start planning for the peak Christmas period, the best advice may well be to deal with the things you can deal with, and try not to worry too much about the things you can’t.

  • Poultry: The shortage of CO2, which is widely used in the food industry, is likely to have a particular impact on poultry. While customers love a traditional Christmas dinner with all the trimmings, research shows that many of them will also be looking for dishes they wouldn’t traditionally cook at home, and want something new and interesting to try. By offering alternatives to turkey such as roast partridge or duck, you can ease the pressure on suppliers as well as interest customers who mighty not cook these at home;
  • Menu descriptions: Avoid mentioning specific breeds or varieties, such as Norfolk turkey or Gloucester Old Spot chipolatas. Using descriptions such as “fresh” and “local” still has strong customer appeal, but allows the flexibility to make the most of changing availability;
  • All the trimmings: Not everyone likes a sprout, so offer different veg options such as spicy cabbage, kale and sweet potatoes, and speak to suppliers about what is best value;
  • Smoked fish: Salmon prices increase in the run-up to Christmas, and any supply issue will add to the challenge. Use alternatives such as smoked mackerel or trout in festive buffets and starters;
  • Desserts: Alongside the traditional Christmas pud, offer sponge puddings and cheesecakes made with a range of fruit flavours and toppings, to make the most of changing availability.

There’s no silver bullet, and it will be hard to avoid the challenges over the next few months. However, keeping menus flexible and working closely with suppliers will help operators make the most of changing product availability.

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Summer 2021 Market Update

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