An Honest Look at Foodservice Supply Chain Issues

If you've looked off our coasts and have seen a line of cargo ships waiting to reach port or have seen empty shelves at the grocery store, it's quite apparent we're in the midst of a pretty significant supply chain shortage in just about every possible sector of the economy.

While it's easy to point fingers and attach causality to score political points or to sell papers, the reality is there isn't a single reason why we're having these issues. In fact, it's because there are so many things happening all at once.

Let's take an honest look at what's happening and why, as well as some things we can all do in the foodservice industry to help mitigate the impacts of our current supply chain shortages.

Why are we having supply chain issues?

Let's start by talking about the global issues we cannot control. It's clear that many of our current challenges began with the onset of the Covid pandemic and have since been expounded by other conditions. In other cases, weather and freak accidents have impacted the supply chain. Think about that image of the ship wedged in the Suez Canal blocking passage from Asia to the Mediterranean, as an example. How did that single event impact global supply chains? About 12% of global trade, around one million barrels of oil and roughly 8% of liquefied natural gas pass through the canal each day, according to the BBC, and that's just one small event.

There are other issues that have impacted shipping, as well, from the rapidly rising cost of freight to shortages on all-important shipping containers. Then there's the lack of staff to unload ships and drive cargo to its final destination.

That's shipping, but what about manufacturing?

Again, there are staffing shortages in plants and factories. In many cases, raw materials and parts are in short supply, making it more difficult to meet production schedules. Factor in rising consumer demands, and it's a perfect storm for supply chain shortages.

What can we do about it?

The reality is, we live in a global economy. Even if things become stabilized in a quicker fashion here in the United States, we're still impacted by other countries. There's no doubt things will normalize at some point, though, as labor challenges subside, freight costs level off, and demand drops to more standardized levels. But what can we do in the meantime?

There's no single solution for everyone, and depending on the needs and challenges of the foodservice operator, there will likely be different ways to answer the supply chain shortage question.

We can suggest a few important considerations, though.

First, expect longer lead times with many types of foodservice equipment and supplies. Even the food supply is impacted, so depending on the ingredient, it might make sense to plan ahead.

Second, because of inflation and the rising costs of shipping, we're noticing that many manufacturers have either raised prices or are planning to raise them. For foodservice operators, planning budgets around those price increases is a smart idea, too, even if the increases don't come to fruition.

Finally, there's the age-old virtue of patience. No single individual is responsible for delays and shortages, and it's in everyone's best interest to move things along as quickly as possible. Be patient. Be kind. And look for people who can help you make the purchasing and procurement process as easy as possible. That's what the Total Source team is here to do. Schedule a free assessment with us if you'd like to review the current state of the foodservice supply chain, as well as some ideas to help your organization overcome it.

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