Restaurant sales started coming back in 2021, especially in the first half of the year. That increase in demand brought a lot of hope to full-service and quick-service restaurants, including pizzerias.
But many pizza restaurant operators’ optimism was short-lived.
While demand for restaurant dining is certainly up, it comes alongside a widespread labor crisis and supply chain bottlenecks. Altogether, it’s a recipe for tough times.
The food industry has been experiencing what experts call a “bullwhip effect.” This is when the market comes back faster than capacity can handle, creating problems that can be as difficult as the initial shutdowns early in the pandemic.
These challenges are having an impact on supply chains, and they’re complicating more than just menus. Items ranging from mozzarella and pepperoni to drinking straws and paper bags have all been affected at one point or another.
It’s a lot to take, but there are effective measures operators can take to minimize the impact of supply chain problems. Let’s take a look at eight strategies that can help you stay profitable, even amid these constantly evolving challenges.
1. Take a Close Look at Your Offerings
Putting limits on your offerings can help you manage your inventory more tightly. When you choose items based on ingredients that are consistently available instead of an array of specialty ingredients, you can streamline your menu. Start by determining how many different menu items are made with each of your most dependable ingredients, and go from there.
2. Keep Close Tabs on Inventory and Coordinate With Suppliers
Software solutions are available that can do a lot of active coordination for you, communicating directly with your wholesale suppliers while helping you digitally manage your inventory.
These solutions can also help you monitor trends inside your operations, and get a clearer picture of demand at your restaurant. As the app collects data, its demand forecasting improves and your ordering should get easier and more precise over time.
3. Promote What’s Profitable
Supply chain problems don’t just affect availability. They can also drive up the costs of certain in-demand products like pepperoni. Labor issues can also be a key consideration in the profitability of your offerings.
Strategic substitutions, like frozen dough balls can go a long way to improve the profitability of your menu items, keeping things moving when labor is short, and reducing waste throughout your operation.
4. Know Where Your Supply Comes From
You need to know where your supply comes from for a lot of reasons: since the initial pandemic outbreak, many viral spikes have been regional. This can cause localized labor issues, transport problems, and more. Weather can have similar regional impacts. But the most important reason may be food safety and traceability.
5. Consider Multiple Vendors for Some Items
While it’s important to coordinate closely and cultivate relationships with suppliers, you may need to develop at least some level of redundancy in your supply chain. This can pay off in case orders come in late (or worse, if an item is simply unavailable). You only need to run out of a key ingredient once to understand the critical significance of dependability, so consider whether it makes sense to alternate orders from more than just one supplier.
6. Make Strategic Use of Nonperishables and Refrigeration
Fresh ingredients are likely among the most vulnerable items in your restaurant’s supply chain. Critically evaluate what needs to be fresh, and what could be purchased as frozen or shelf-stable ingredients. In addition to considering frozen dough balls, think about substituting fully prepared sauces for scratch-made. Such swaps may even leave more room in your budget for specialty toppings on your signature offerings.
7. Innovate to Meet Customers’ Needs
The supply chain isn’t the only aspect of the foodservice industry to see changes spurred by the pandemic. Customers have had to make adjustments, too. Early on in the pandemic, frozen pizza sales soared, as lockdowns kept families at home.
Since then, not everyone has made an enthusiastic return to dining in — but some of your customers may still crave the flavors on your menu. It may be worth exploring whether to offer frozen versions of your menu’s top performers.
8. Keep Customers in the Loop
Communication matters, and most pizzeria customers want their favorite restaurants to continue to succeed. You can help them understand the challenges you’re weathering by communicating directly with them on things that directly impact them like menu item price increases. Use your website, social media, in-house posters, and your marketing communications to help customers know what is and is not available, substitutions you’ve made, and more. The same goes for dine-in availability: if labor issues are affecting your service staff, let customers know in advance to help head off frustration.
Respond Proactively and Plan for Change
The pros at Alive & Kickin’ Pizza Crust have even more to share with you in terms of pandemic-related operational knowledge. You can tap into these new learnings when you download our free guide, Lessons from COVID: Takeaways and Best Practices for New & Traditional Pizza Operations. Just click the link below to claim your copy.