Chain Reaction: Supply chain issues threaten local restaurants

Chain Reaction: Supply chain issues threaten local restaurants

SOUTH BEND, Ind. --- Restaurant owners are facing what could be their biggest pandemic related challenge yet: supply chain issues.

Everything from takeout containers to chicken wings and cooking oil can be hard to find and even if you can find it, it’s hard to afford.

If you’re have lunch or dinner at Woochi in Downtown South Bend, you probably wouldn’t know the restaurant is dealing with major issues stemming from the supply chain.

The reality is the Japanese bar and grill has had to make big changes to keep their doors open.

David Meredith, the co-owner of Woochi Japanese Fusion & Bar says supply chain issues has even led them to remove some menu items completely.

“Chicken wings! Last year, we couldn’t find any chicken wings so we had to take it off from the menu,” Meredith said.

The problems have lasted longer than expected and sometimes force the restaurant to go searching for products that they can’t get from suppliers online or at specialty stores.

“Because we are a Japanese fusion restaurant, we do get a lot of our products imported from other countries like japan. So right now, we’re seeing to-go container shortage, sushi wrapper, rice.”

When Meredith finds specialty items in stock, he says he usually buys up what he can but that doesn’t happen often.

The shortages are impacting other restaurants across Michiana too. It’s an industry wide problem even hitting big chains like Starbucks and McDonalds.

But why is this happening? Andrew Butters, a professor of business and economics at Indiana Univeristy, says the economy is rebounding from the pandemic faster than expected.

“We are in a pretty unprecedented time. At least in modern times, we haven’t had to go through a global pandemic,” Butters said.

The demand for goods and experiences like dining out is higher than the supply chain can keep up with.

There’s also a major labor shortage complicating things for restaurant owners.

“Really what we’re seeing is a combination of demand and supply imbalances until we have a labor market again to get closer to the rate we saw before the pandemic.”

Butters says its unlikely supply chain issues and inflation will ease up in 2022.

For restaurant owners like Meredith, their livelihood is on the line until it does.

“Since I’ve been working in restaurants for 20 years, the last two have been so tough. Not just order price going up. But with product shortage we don’t know if we can continue to open or not,” Meredith said.

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