Supply Chain Problems Hit Restaurants, Bars

Todd R. McAdam/Cortland Standard Cook Homer D. Mitchell prepares biscuits and gravy Thursday at the Cortland Diner. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a variety of supply-chain problems and shortages for restaurants and pubs. Photo by Cortland Standard

Does your restaurant need some fryer oil? Beer? Dish soap, maybe? Restaurant owners will likely struggle to get the supplies, and then face sticker shock when they see the bill.

“We all got a problem,” said Cortland Diner owner Clay Martinez on Thursday. It’s difficult to get the food and supplies his restaurant depends on.

“Half the time they (suppliers) don’t give you what you want,” Martinez said. “Prices are high, too.”

And the problem expands to cleaning supplies, he said. “Like detergent soap. You can get it, but not enough.”

“Every single restaurant is having difficulty with the supply chains,” said Tammy Timmerman, president of the Cortland County Tavern & Restaurant Association. “Even the cost of fryer oil tripled.

There are multiple problems affecting the food and supply chain, Timmerman said: Poor local harvests due to the wet summer, farmers struggling to ship harvests, not enough truckers to get the shipments off railcars to where they need to go.

“The public really has no idea how bad it really is,” said Mike Kreloff, sales manager of Cortland Produce wholesale division in Freeville. Its grocery and bulk store, Cortland Produce Cash & Carry, is on Owego Street in Cortland.

The shortages range from pizza boxes to paper napkins to chicken wings, Kreloff said. “Something a person would have paid $1 a pound for is now $3 a pound.”

Straws are hard to get, as well as biodegradable and compostable take-out containers. Chicken wings are scarce because chicken flocks are reduced.

“I’ve been in the business over 30 years and I have never seen it like this,” Kreloff said.

“The bars are having trouble getting some of their liquor because there’s a bottle shortage,” Timmerman said. “They are having trouble getting beer because there’s an aluminum can shortage.”

Garcia’s Mexican Restaurant on Main Street in Cortland couldn’t get Mexican beer because of the bottle shortage, as well, said manager Moises Guevara.

“We went without Dos Equis (Mexican) Amber for two months,” he said. “It was very hard to find beer from Mexico.”

The shortages were at their worst over the summer, he said. Since then, supply availability has improved, but some things are still difficult to get.

“Sometimes you can’t buy chicken. Sometimes you can’t buy beef,” Guevara said. “And the prices went up 100%.”

The current difficulties are compounded by new state regulation, Timmerman said, including a higher minimum wage, and a ban on polystyrene foam containers.

“The restaurants really are being dealt a lot of blows at once,” she said.


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