Every business, particularly restaurants, needs certain essentials on hand to meet the needs and demands of their community/customers. Unfortunately, restaurants and other businesses have been struggling to keep up with customer demands due to supply chain shortages and rising food costs since the pandemic’s onset.
Almost everything is in short supply, from dish soap to fryer oil and kitchen equipment. If a restaurateur finds those items, they have to pay higher prices. Staying nimble and making daily adjustments are the only solutions to overcome the situation. But, at the same time, you should also prepare yourself for another possible shortage by stocking up on the essentials. But, what should you stock up on?
What do you really need?
Sources of Supply
Since most restaurants and other businesses have limited storage space, they have to buy what they need on a daily or weekly basis. There are a number of ways to get those supplies, but many of the possible sources are not reliable enough. The sources should be reliable and legit with good track records to avoid scams and potential trouble.
Here are the essential restaurant supplies that you should always have on hand.
After the pandemic, consumers returned back to restaurants but continued to demand takeout. But thanks to snarls in the global supply chain, for most restaurants, takeout containers, especially cups, have been harder to source. According to the Wall Street Journal, Starbucks, the coffee giant, was running low on takeaway cups in some cafes last summer.
It is time to rethink how restaurateurs manage their inventory. Before another shortage hits, it is wise to stock up on nonperishable goods like cups, napkins, containers, etc. Remember to consider the cup sizes when you stock up. For instance, how big is 32 oz? Will it be enough, or should you get larger ones?
On the other hand, you can think of new ways to pack your takeaway drinks. Take Panera Bread, for example. To deal with the shortage in supply of packaging for its hot sandwiches, Panera Bread found an alternative, thermal wraps, that were more readily available and had less impact on the environment.
They used the wraps to place the hot sandwiches and salads inside, which not only eliminated the need for wrappers and containers but also encouraged customers to take out more servings at one time. By using thermal wraps instead of using trays and containers, Panera was able to take on more customers each day. The new wrappers increased the footfall by 2.2 percent and the average check by 7 percent. Today, Panera Bread’s use of thermal wraps is a successful solution to the problem of packaging.
Panera Bread’s success with its thermal wrap product is a good reminder to restaurateurs to be creative and find solutions to problems that arise in business. You can also source more efficient containers for takeout such as “Solo” cups at SoloCups.com that come with resealable lids.
Practical tips for taking care of takeaway containers:
- As soon as you purchase them, wash them immediately. That way, you can prevent some foodborne illnesses and prevent the buildup of mold on your containers.
- Rinse and dry the containers after use. If you re-use now, make sure these two things are done before you pack your next takeout order. Remember that bacteria like to grow in moist areas like food particles left in the container and leftover liquid.
2. Food and Beverage
The ultimate key to a successful restaurant is good food. To offer good food to customers, you need better-quality raw materials, such as meat, vegetables, dairy, grain, spices, etc. In addition, if you sell non-alcoholic beverages in your restaurant or bars, you also need high-quality supplies for them.
So, in case of a shortage, you want to ensure the right raw materials and beverages are stocked up. Alongside stocking up, you might also want to try menu item forecasting. Emphasize the need for restaurants to adapt in other ways besides making sure those essential ingredients are in stock.
Predicting the menu is much like determining the demand for different items on your menu. Doing so will help you make decisions regarding the ingredients you should stock up on. In addition, it will also help you save on labor and raw material costs. To predict the menu, you need to understand how the menu items are currently perceived by your customers. For your restaurant, you may consider conducting a survey.
The survey will help you determine the following:
- The needs of your attendees regarding your main menu items
- The frequency at which attendees visit your restaurant
- The reasons why customers prefer one main course over the other
The most accurate way of doing this is by creating a statistical model to forecast the trend of your customers’ orders. By developing a model, you can forecast the number of orders for each menu item and how much of each ingredient will be required to meet the demand. To do this, you need to first decide which variables you want to include in your model. This includes the ingredients, orders, and the cost of each menu item.
3. Kitchen Equipment Replacements
Kitchen equipment plays a vital role in the proper functioning of a restaurant. If not replaced after a specific interval, it can negatively impact the quality of food and the service you offer your customers.
Kitchen equipment replacement parts are often sourced from different countries and can hence be unavailable in case of supply chain disruptions. Therefore, restaurateurs are advised to review their kitchen equipment and look for replacement parts they would need soon. Then look for sales or discounts and stock them for future use.
WHS Food Advisor also recommends that you clean and sanitize your kitchen equipment every day.
Replacing old kitchen equipment can help you increase kitchen efficiency, regardless of whether you are a restaurant owner. If you are a cook, replacing pots, pans, and other kitchen equipment with quality ones can make a world of difference in your cooking. They will allow you to monitor the food’s temperature, cook them evenly and prevent sticking issues.
4. Sanitation Products
Cleanliness is a vital part of the food service industry, especially since the pandemic. As a result, various business regulations were put into place, meaning restaurateurs should pay special attention to ensuring that their business has all the cleaning supplies and janitorial equipment it needs.
Depending on the type of flooring and appliances you have, you might want to stock up on supplies like sanitizers, microfiber cloths, mop and mop buckets, scrubbers and sponges, trash cans, brooms and dustpans, and gloves.
You should also consider supplies like paper towels, bottled water, and dish detergent.
The number one rule you should follow when cleaning is that you should never clean with warm water. Warm water will attract bacteria, which could be exacerbated by the hot summer temperatures. The ideal temperature for cleaning is between 60° and 68° Fahrenheit. You should also make sure to clean surfaces like door handles and desktops several times a day with disinfectant wipes.
To learn more about the cleaning supplies available, talk to your local janitorial supply company.
As a food service operator, you might also want to consider investing in some commercial dishwashing equipment, like dish racks and utensil bins. If you run a retail bakery or café, shop around for some commercial bakery equipment.
5. Paper Goods
As a restaurateur, your kitchen is your kingdom, but your dining room and bar (and restrooms) are the gateways to your kingdom. Customers will always judge you on how well you take care of them. To avoid that impression, always have plenty of clean and fresh napkins handy. Although it’s true that many customers like to eat off of plates and not out of plastic, paper plates are often easier to carry and cost less. This forward-thinking is ideal for fast-paced, untraditional food services such as food trucks to always keep plenty of paper plates around. It’s also good to have paper cups around in case customers forget their soda bottles or just want to buy a glass of water.
Focus on What You Can Control
Supply chain shortages created an uproar across the restaurant industry, causing headaches for both restaurateurs, staff, and customers. Though the future can’t be predicted, one thing is certain—these disruptions won’t go away anytime soon. So, the best thing you can do as a restaurateur is to plan for them and focus on things you can control.
Beyond stocking up on the essentials, it would also help create a flexible menu you can easily scale up or down. Try to come up with a dish or ingredient substitutions in advance and keep the lines of communication open with your staff, suppliers, and even customers.
Overall, the takeaway market will continue to boom because of the growth in e-commerce businesses that have hiked up their ordering activities. In the U.S., takeout food purchases have tripled since 2012, according to Business Insider. It is predicted that takeout sales will continue to reach new highs in the coming years. As a matter of fact, some restaurants may choose to make their cups, containers, and napkins more eco-friendly and reusable.