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Managing the Christmas supply chain

While things might seem like they’re slowly returning to normal across the UK, there are one or two more bumps in the road to recovery that we’ll all need to navigate if we want Christmas 2021 to be the success we're counting on.


In fact, the perfect storm caused by Brexit and the pandemic continues to swirl. For example, the latest ONS fortnightly business poll revealed that 9% of hospitality firms have been unable to get hold of materials, goods and services in recent weeks, and 11.4% have had to find alternative ways to access them.


So, with longer lead times for seasonal products like pigs in blankets, poultry production down 20%, and shortages of workers to pick fresh product such as broccoli, sprouts and cabbage, there’s a good chance that many of us will feel the impact in the run-up to the Festive period - and maybe even beyond.


This means getting Christmas wrapped up early has never been more important.

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"If they haven't already, customers need to be speaking to their suppliers now so they can get an idea on volumes - even if it's just basing their predictions on 2019 figures." Beacon Category Manager for F&B Timothy Nichol recommends.


"Planning ahead will be vital, and early ordering will help you avoid the disappointment of last-minute product swaps or unavailability. Also, stay in touch with your Reps, as they will be able to keep you updated on any developments that could affect you, particularly on a local basis."

This advice is being echoed across the supply chain, with many of our food wholesalers giving similar advice.

Our suppliers are telling us the same things

We’re in contact with hundreds of hospitality suppliers every day, and their stories are the same. We’re hearing that there’s a major job crisis across farming and the food sector. Factories are feeling the pinch with Covid-related staff absences. And a national driver shortage that’s making the situation even more difficult.

For example, Bidfood has told us that avian and swine flu have affected the availability of some key meat and poultry lines and extreme weather conditions have delayed the planting and drilling of some crops, impacting quality and supply (such as the current issues being experienced with potato products). Brakes have explained that packaging across the industry is now on a 6-8 week lead time where previously it was only 2 weeks. And, like many other suppliers Direct Seafood are working with their customers to reduce the frequency of deliveries to minimise the impact of potential price increases due to steep inflationary rises that are now impossible to absorb. 


So, with increasing agency staff costs, steep wage increases for driver roles, national living wage increases, climbing inflation, growing fuel costs, and spiralling utilities charges, we’re facing what could be a bumpy ride.


To put it all into perspective, a new cross-sector report is even urging ministers to introduce a 12-month "Covid-19 Recovery Visa" to fill an estimated 500,000 vacancies across food and drink businesses. However, while the sector waits for an outcome, there are a number of things you can do to make sure the impact on your business is minimised. Here’s our quick guide:

Reducing the impact of price rises

  1. Work with your suppliers to find more efficient ways to buy, such as making the most of cheaper delivery options or times, or even switching products altogether.

  2. Speak to Beacon about reengineering your menus. Recipe ingredients, portion sizes, food wastage, streamlining the number of dishes etc. can all help lower costs without impacting on quality and our F&B Consultancy service can support your chefs in identifying ways to optimise operational efficiency.

  3. Remember that although price rises may be on their way, Beacon are working hard behind the scenes to mitigate the increase.

  4. If you do receive a price increase notification from your supplier, work with them to look at product swaps to minimise the impact.

  5. These issues are being felt sector-wide, so you're better working with your supplier rather than looking for alternatives.

Reducing the impact of product shortages

  1. Plan ahead as much as you can and order the perishable products you need as early as possible, avoiding ‘just in time’ ordering wherever you can.

  2. Be as flexible as possible with menus, allowing for substitutions where practical as your supplier will normally be able to offer a viable alternative if something is not in stock.

  3. Order more non-perishables than you would usually order if you have space to store them.

  4. Aim to meet or exceed all ‘minimum order’ values, as this will mean you’ll make fewer and less frequent orders.

  5. Give your supplier an idea of Christmas volumes now - even if you're basing your forecast on 2019 figures. For any unusual or large orders, let your food wholesaler know as early as possible so that they can try to accommodate these.  

We're here to help

At Beacon, we’re here to help with all your Christmas purchasing - including non-food categories. We have years of experience working with hospitality suppliers, and our knowledge and understanding of the issues our industry is facing right now are second to none. So, whether you're looking for advice on menu planning, cost-effective commercial decoration hire, reducing waste, improving your margins or utilising tech to increase customer satisfaction, get in touch now so we can support you with all aspects of your festive planning.