An unwelcome new normal: supply shortages in the food sector

Alina Dancho. Contributing photo.

JThe food industry has been hit hard by supply chain disruptions that have led to dramatic price increases and shortages of goods.

Alina Dancho is a food industry professional who has tried to mitigate the effects of global supply chain disruption. Dancho runs Alina’s Cakes & Cookies in Fairfield, a small bakery that serves traditional European pastries and sweets.

“Everything I order that comes from Germany and Belgium, I ordered two steps ahead, so I was also ahead of the prices because I knew it was coming,” Dancho said. , adding that the price increases affected flour, sugar, eggs and oil, all registering an increase of more than 25%.

Other regional businesses have been similarly affected by this supply bottleneck and price spike. Executive Chef Jared Secor of Apropos Restaurant and Bar in Peekskill has witnessed dramatic increases in certain food items, such as fingerling potatoes, which in one week had risen by 40%.

“It seems like things that weigh a lot, weigh a lot for shipping companies to move and (there’s) just more labor involved,” Secor added as heavier items saw the price hikes. the most intense, noting that on “a 50 pound bag of potatoes, the price has changed dramatically.

Even elected officials have worried about the impact of supply chain disruptions on their local food industry outlets. Yorktown City Supervisor Matthew Slater observed that restaurants in his community not only buy as much as they can, but must also meet order minimums.

“When they do their weekly inventory, if they don’t cross the minimum threshold, they can’t even order it,” Slater said. “They’re changing how often they order (for produce), and that obviously impacts their menu and what they can serve.”

Jared Secor. Contributing photo.

Even non-food items have become difficult to acquire. Secor recalls, “I haven’t been able to get parchment paper, just sheet tray liners for the last two months. And I bought a box of it when I had the chance, and they ended up not even having it so I could buy it again.

Alina’s Cakes & Cookies was luckier in this regard, being able to obtain the paper and plastic needed for packaging. However, these items have seen their prices increase by more than 60%.

“I pay over $3,000 in paper and plastic a month, which is ridiculous,” Dancho said.

Slater pointed out that supply issues have also caused problems for business chains opening up in Yorktown, such as Trader Joe’s and CoCo Farms, which for a long time were unable to obtain refrigerators, which delayed openings.

Businesses responded by staying ahead of prices, ordering well in advance and stocking up on what they could. Dancho has tried to place orders with its suppliers in advance and believes that, for now, its company has enough equipment.

“We’re a little luckier when it comes to being a bakery, in that you can store – not the eggs and the milk and the cream – but the flour and the sugar if I need it, so I’m good for two months,” Dancho said. “But at the same time, I don’t have (much) space. I can’t fill everything with flour.

Secor knew the limitations of storing in spaces where available space was limited. Recalling past experiences, Secor said: “Coming from New York, where I’ve been (in) very small kitchens, a lot of places don’t have the luxury of stocking items, they just have to constantly rotate. However, as Apropos is located in the Abbey Inn & Spa, the restaurant has “the luxury of having the hotel, which has plenty of storage.”

In circumstances where a vendor is unable to provide Secor and its team with certain materials, they have been upfront in informing customers that Apropos.

“You’ll still have the guest pushing back, saying menu selections are limited and things along those lines,” Secor said, but “people are starting to realize that items are going to be hard to come by.”

To better combat rising material prices, companies have sought to raise the prices of their own products.

“Everyone is posting in their restaurants or pizza places that prices have gone up because supply is asking for it,” Slater said of Yorktown food businesses. “They’re forced to spend more on their products to make their products, and that trickles down to consumers, there’s no doubt about that.”

Dancho’s Fairfield business has also hiked menu prices by 5% to 6%, which it says is needed to stay afloat. Secor has tried to keep the prices on the Apropos menu as low as possible, which has resulted in some changes to the dishes, such as “taking cheaper cuts of meat, or something that requires more preparation, so putting more labor in cheaper items to increase their value.”

Although Slater noted that “one of the first things people cut is going out to eat” during economic downturns, Secor’s and Dancho’s respective efforts to combat the effects of supply chain disruption, as well that their positive reception beforehand, meant that the flow of customers remained sustainable, if not better.

“The numbers have definitely gone up,” Secor said of Apropos’ customers. “People want to go out and have fun.”

And as summer approaches, both companies are looking forward to more special functions, like weddings, being held to further increase customer traffic.

“Our neighborhood has been pretty good and they’ve helped us, and they’ve been with us all this time, so as long as we can pay the bills, we’ll be here. We won’t give up,” Dancho said.

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