Supply Chain: Shortage in Food—How Can Restaurant Owners Cope?

Nov 05, 2021

Labor shortages are throwing a massive wrench in the entire economy— with restaurants are hugely impacted. “Short-staffed” has become part of our daily vocabulary now in the world of hospitality. And now, supply chain and food shortages are making things more complicated.

Food shortage and hunger issue: what is going on?

The Washington Post says climate change is the reason for the food shortage, so hunger issues have increased all around the globe. Food shortages are basically in full effect (along with products such as toilet paper).  Wholesale places like Costco are already limiting purchases of various items like water cases and paper products.

While many people rely on canned items throughout the winter, so do many restaurants. According to, aluminum is also in shorter supply, causing strain on both consumers and businesses. This is not just limited to canned vegetables but also sodas, soups, coffee, tea, and many other canned goods. These are usually larger canned items available in bulk on websites geared toward chefs and restaurants everywhere.

Many food chains and private chefs simply cannot get all ingredients they need

As the holiday season approaches, food supply chains are wearing thin. According to the Wall Street Journal, the food supply chains are stretched, causing significant issues for restaurants.


supply chain problems
Supply chain issues causing problems for all


Many restaurants are dealing with substituting different items or changing menu options entirely because they simply cannot get all the food items and various ingredients they need to make their signature and regular dishes for their customers. The hope is that this does not deter customers looking to order out and take a break from cooking this holiday season.

Grocers are also being hit hard

Shipping and delivery issues are not just hitting restaurants, but all regular retailers and grocers, too. Shelves aren’t filing back up as they once were before the pandemic. According to JPG Resources LLC, with food shortages also comes big price swings on main ingredients utilized by a variety of foodservice companies.


A photo of a store with empty shelves

Limited options on the menu means changes in the dishes offered

A CNN article out of New York discusses restaurants having to deal with the fact that some food options are simply off the table. Restaurants that usually offer finer options are limited, and those cafes and restaurants that always need fresh vegetables have a hard time getting what they need.

Nothing is going to be easy this holiday season. Most restaurants are probably going to offer different food options or be more inventive with their dishes.  Many places are already seeing menu changes emerge because of the need to use alternative food options in many different areas of cuisine.

While the food shortage due to supply chain issues has been hard on all restaurants, it certainly has had a big impact on vegetarian operations since they tend to rely on fresh produce. Since 2020, many food industry heads knew things were going to change a bit, and some people even began stocking up on items they could, though that’s not possible for fresh foods, of course.


What can restaurant operators do today?

Restaurant operators need to take a very hard look at their menu and all the labor that makes the food and simplify where they can. Synergy can help them systematize, standardize and optimize their menu so that they can have good margins and keep their food cost and menu prices in check. The key to dealing with this new food cost challenge is to develop a strategy around:

Synergy Restaurant Consultants are subject matter experts in this area. It would be wise for operators to deal with this sooner rather than later because they will be caught flat-footed during the holidays!