Even though it is becoming a common occurrence, food shortages due to drought, product recalls or shipment errors can be frustrating for the MN certified food manager. While these shortages can be a major inconvenience, your facility still has to work through them, so we felt like we’d offer a few suggestions for when food shortages arise.
How to Deal with Product Shortages
We have three suggestions that you may want to keep in mind when you are unable to produce the same dishes that you are normally accustomed to.
- Find a second source for product
- Come up with an adequate substitution
- Keep your customers informed
Most large food service suppliers source their goods from major national sources. When drought or cold weather conditions affect the supply coming from well-known producers, it may be time to turn to smaller outlets. If major growing regions have limited amounts of produce such as greens and fruits that are available, you may wish to contact local sources or smaller food supply companies to see if they have your required ingredients available. Your local area farms may also be a solution. Even though it may be more expensive, or you may have to pick up your produce rather than have it delivered, they may have the same product as major growers so you can keep serving the same cuisine as before.
There are times when a second source for a product simply does not exist. During a major recall of any product, alternate suppliers are stretched thin. This may be a time to stretch your creativity and come up with new menu items and unique substitutions with your current production. For some menu items there can be quick and easy substitutions that your guests will readily accept, such as salads and side dishes. In the event that a item cannot be served, such as the protein for a main course, it is a good idea to bring in a similar protein and run a temporary replacement dish on your menu.
Finally, keep your customers informed of dishes and product substitutions before they order. There are very few things more frustrating than not being told that the menu item you have decided on is not available when it comes time to order. Let your guests know which items on your menu are not available due to product shortages before they are even handed a menu. Also, make sure that your servers are also aware of the situation, taking an order for an item you do not have available should never happen.
At Safe Food Training, we’d like to know your strategy for dealing with ingredient shortages. Do you prefer to make substitutions, find new sources for ingredients or simply remove unavailable dishes from your menu temporarily?