TOP SUPPLY CHAIN AND ECONOMIC TRENDS OF 2022
According to Technomic’s 2022 Trend Report, our industry is predicted to see up to a 10% sales increase – indicating that there is, in fact, a light at the end of the pandemic tunnel. Diner demand has certainly come back, increasing over 2019 levels, but operators now have a new set of challenges to overcome. Agility and flexibility will be the name of the game for every restaurant or foodservice operation in 2022, along with finding new ways to increase profitability through smarter purchasing, operational practices, and higher menu prices. Below, you’ll find four key components to help you get ahead during this volatile supply and economic phase.
Trend One: MENU AND PRODUCT SUBSTITUTIONS
According to Datassential, From May to December of 2021, operators reported shortages in every category – anything from to-go packaging to chicken wings has been impacted by supply chain challenges. Here at US Foods®, we have not been immune to these challenges, but we have implemented new technologies and engaged with our experts to help customers manage their inventory while minimizing the impact on their operation.
Food Fanatics® Chef Megan Richards found herself consulting with many operators around this very topic. “I always advise operators to look for more unique items to fill the void. When experiencing an onion ring shortage, try pickle fries instead. I’ve had many customers get back to me that they would have never thought to make a total change, but that the new item is selling better than they had hoped!”
Maria O’Rourke, Food Fanatics Chef in our Jackson, Mississippi Division, states, “I have encouraged my operators to coach servers and staff as to how to address items on the menu that are unavailable or have undergone a significant price increase. I think it is important to give employees the information they need to adequately address a customer question, and to suggest another item that is likely to satisfy (or even delight) that customer.” These protein shortages, especially those in the chicken and seafood categories, have provided operators with the opportunity to explore more of our plant-based offerings, which have been in high demand.
With over one-third of consumers (36%) stating that they are looking to increase their plant-based protein consumption (Datassential), there couldn’t be a better time to test these offerings out in your operation. Other great wing alternatives and ideas are featured in our recent Food Fanatics Magazine Article On the Fly . Stay up-to-date on weekly produce, meat, dairy and seafood market trends that affect the foodservice industry with the US Foods Farmer’s Report.
Our e-commerce platform is equipped with pre-loaded product substitutes when available, saving you time and frustration when your go-to product is unavailable. Simply check the box while placing your order to accept the substitution.
TREND Two: Build a Versatile Menu
In response to the myriad of challenges that came with the pandemic, restaurants had to make significant changes to menus. Most commonly, that meant reducing the menu to the items that were both profitable and popular. But as the pandemic has endured, diners are growing tired of seeing the same menu options every time they order out or dine in.
Consumers want to see new and exciting items on the menus of their favorite restaurants, and you may also be feeling the need to flex your creative culinary muscles again. However, with supply chain issues and labor challenges, versatility and product-cross utilization is key to making it easier to add new menu items. You need to find the Meryl Streep of products: seamlessly perform a wide range of roles and be a shining star on your menu.
Our Scoop™ products are designed specifically to provide solutions that are not only versatile, but also labor-saving and on-trend. For example, the Molly’s Kitchen® Three Cheese Chicken and Chile Dip doesn’t have to only be served as a dip. It can also be used as the sauce for a mac ‘n’ cheese, stuffed into poblano peppers, fried into croquettes, or even turned into a soup.
The products you use in your kitchen also do not have to be limited to its main component. Just as chefs are finding innovative ways to use all parts of produce in root-to-stem cooking, think about ways you can use the oils or brine leftover in some of the products you use, extending that product’s versatility. The brine in Monarch® Pickled Red Onions, for instance, can be used to pickle additional vegetables, in chicken marinades, to give pickled eggs a delightful pink color, or in a sweet onion vinaigrette on a Crispy Pickled Onion and Pork Belly Salad.
TREND Three: RAISE PRICES and update your menu
In 2021, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the U.S. inflation rate rose to 6.8% − the highest it has been since 1982. With inflation at its highest in decades, operators can no longer absorb those added costs, but there is always the fear of raising prices or updating a menu. As a former operator himself, our Cleveland-based Restaurant Operations Consultant Matt Bruenderman understands that fear, but challenges operators to provide value in other ways beyond their pricing. “Provide a unique and comfortable ambiance. Set high standards for service. Demand quality and consistency in what you’re serving."
Food Fanatics Chef Maria O’Rourke has encouraged operators to coach servers and staff on how to address items on the menu that are unavailable, or have undergone a significant price increase.
US Foods Menu Senior Manager Lisa Slawson says, “Control what you can control, and prepare and adapt for what you can’t – you can’t fix the supply chain, but you do have full control over the most important selling tool in your operation, which is your menu.”
Read here to learn how now is the perfect time to adjust your prices. But if you're still stuck on the thought of losing customers, consider this from Slawson: “Consumers always have more cost-effective options for a meal, but we know that diners go out to eat for the experience, so be confident that the brand you’ve built provides the experience your customers want and the value they’ll pay for, even if it costs a little bit more. If you’re not, consider how you can start boosting customer perception – for example, tell the story of your 'famous' cannoli, post a video to your social channels showing your staff hand-rolling them just like your grandma used to, and then use your menu descriptors to call out that they’re homemade.
"Be consistent in messaging your unique brand story and transparent in your communications. Trust is a critical piece of any value proposition, and earning it with your customers will greatly decrease the chances that they’ll punish you for doing what’s necessary for your operation.”
This might also be the perfect time to revisit your menu. Gone are the days of the traditional printed menu. With the advent of digital menu boards and self-service ordering kiosks, menu technology has advanced significantly in the past decade. Calais Sullivan-Wysong, Restaurant Operations Consultant out of our Kansas City market, says her favorite menu technology is the simple QR Code. She states, “This technology allows for operators to have their customers visit the restaurant website to find the menu, which in turn drives website traffic and gets active promotions and other revenue centers in front of an already engaged audience. This also allows operators to save money on printed menus, and gives them the ability to change pricing and availability on menu items in an instant.”
The most important thing about your menu is how you can use it to drive traffic. Click here to utilize free resources from US Foods to optimize your menu to drive traffic, revenue and profit. And when it comes to streamlining the purchasing process and optimizing your inventory, our partners at Craftable can help you keep costs under control. For more recommendations from our Food Fanatics Chefs and Restaurant Operations Consultants on how to manage the current supply chain challenges through your menu, be sure to catch our “Market Price” webinar on demand here.
Trend Four: FINDING HIDDEN FUNDS
The CARES Act and PPP legislative acts were a lifeline for many operators in 2020 and 2021, providing the necessary funds to keep doors open and retain staff. Our team of experts have now helped thousands of operators secure funding through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) or Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC). In 2022, they can help you understand the tax-free grants now available to independent operators in the Restaurant Revitalization Fund Grant Program, as part of the American Rescue Plan.
We have found that even savvy, multi-unit operators with tax attorneys and CPAs on retainer are leaving money on the table. Our dedicated team of CARES Act Restaurant Operations Consultants remain available to those in need. Book time with one of them for a 1:1 consultation.
And don't forget to watch our webinar about the ERTC and learn how to get your funds.