• Maya

Surviving a Disposables Shortage: How Restaurants Are Overcoming Their Next Hurdle

Over the past year, COVID-19 has changed nearly everything about the landscape of food service as we used to know it. As off-premising dining skyrocketed alongside smart online ordering solutions and contact-free services, restaurants soon found themselves at the crossroads of a strange new problem: A sudden shortage of single-use, disposable items.

PPE like gloves and sanitation supplies, as well as necessary packaging for takeout or delivery, are running into trouble further up the supply chain. When shortages happen, prices skyrocket as a result. With the market near-permanently in flux until things settle post-pandemic, restaurants seek to get ahead of the shortage before the next shift puts them firmly back in the realm of struggling for basic necessities.

Although it may seem out of your hands so far up the supply chain, here are a few things restaurants can focus on to avoid feeling the heat.

1. Packaging

Presentation is everything, and not just for aesthetics. With off-premise dining taking off this year, delivery, pickup and curbside services are experiencing a boon—but that’s no excuse to forgo the careful presentation that you’ve perfected for sit-down meals. Functionality needs to meet attractiveness to keep guests hooked.

  1. Choose compartmented containers so food doesn’t slide around in transit and arrives intact, without any spillage.

  2. Separate foods that need to be kept at different temperatures so nothing arrives soggy or room temperature.

  3. Invest in quality packaging. Modern consumers vastly prefer eco-consciousness, so choose green packaging that holds up well, can be recycled and silently demonstrates that you share their values.

These tips don’t just apply to food. The pandemic triggered some local governments to approve temporary laws allowing alcohol delivery, so restaurants have started selling cocktails too. Whether it’s house-made beer or regular soda, find smarter ways to package your drinks as well as your food so guests get everything just as they were promised.

2. PPE

If there’s one thing you don’t want to run out of during a global crisis, it’s personal protective equipment. Unfortunately, everyone is stocking up on masks, gloves and various disinfectants to stay safe, to the point that stores habitually put a limit on how much you can buy at once. When every cent counts dearly, you can’t afford to run out of PPE—especially with capacity restrictions affecting profits further.

Don’t just be clean; make a point of it too. Customers need to feel like you’re as safe and sanitized as you really are so they’re comfortable coming back. Don’t be afraid to let them see you wiping down reusable menus or choosing disposable cutlery.

3. Distributors

When the supply chain suffers, it affects everybody along it. Higher prices hurt your suppliers if they buy from somebody else; it’s difficult to move funds around when they’re already tight, and now you’re forced to spend money on supplies you don’t usually purchase with less revenue coming in all around.

Lean on your relationships in times of strife. Team up with vendors and other restaurants in the area to save on costs or delivery fees; there are even Group Purchasing Organizations (GPOs) that help business owners get better prices on critical purchases. These resources, compounded by analyzing your vendor relationships to get the most out of them that you possibly can, will guide you to the other side.

Disposables Shortage

Off-premise dining isn’t going anywhere soon. It’s swept the food service industry over the past year as the safest alternative to sit-down service, and it’s projected to continue long past the pandemic now that customers are comfortable with the practice. Stock up on your disposables, reinforce your most important relationships and don’t wait until the next supply chain crisis to start thinking about what’s best for your restaurant in the long term.

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