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Hurricane season: Failing to plan now, may be planning to fail later

| by Andrew Rosenbloom
Hurricane season: Failing to plan now, may be planning to fail later

Photo: Gary Tognoni via iStock of Wilmington, N.C. after 2018 Hurricane Florence.

While Hurricane Dorian has largely passed, after devastating the Bahamas and spurring flooding in North Carolina, the torrential rains and furious winds of the 2019 hurricane season remain in full force. In the north central Atlantic, for instance, Tropical Storm Gabrielle continues to brew, while three other systems in and near the Gulf of Mexico threaten to develop into still more destructive weather forces, according to the Washington Post

In fact, dead-center of this hurricane season was yesterday and there's really no telling which states and nations will have suffered the season's fury by the time it ends in October. It is a given, however, that through it all, restaurant operators always face repercussions of such storms, since, in the world of food costs, Mother Nature is often the one X-factor that no one can control. 

While commodity experts have projections on what they think will happen with crops each year, nothing can put a wrench in those plans quite like drought, floods, hurricanes, deep freezes or any other natural disaster. 
In short, when it comes to restaurant risk management, weather-related contingency plans should be top of mind all year, but especially at this time of year. 

Citrus crops, avocados and anything else that grows in moderate temperate climates — specifically such areas in Florida — are all at risk. Still, operators can often pass through these unavoidable situations with minimal disruption  if they take the necessary steps to protect themselves and their supplies.

Toward that end and especially for operators at this time of year, we've put together some ways to prepare for unplanned weather events in ways that minimize their overall impact. But these actions are advance preparations and must be taken in the proverbial "calm before the storm" in order to reap their full advantage. 

  • Create an acceptable list of substitutions for key/high volume ingredients critical to your menu. Examples of this include using blueberries in place of strawberries, plum tomatoes in place of layered tomatoes and citrus grown in other markets.
  • Identify an alternative/limited menu in anticipation of certain products being unavailable. These can be used as limited-time offers until your original ingredients become available.
  • Pre-determine alternative sourcing for your top five to 10 critical items. 
  • Adjust par levels and confirm the right pack size being used to minimize waste.
  • Use every and all local produce programs at your disposal. The window of opportunity may be limited so work with your produce supplier to pinpoint the best opportunities.
  • If you can, use a frozen product in recipes that can easily accept them.
  • If you have room, plant a small garden inside your restaurant and capture the "grown here" flavor. While it may take some time for these plants to grow, you can always buy something that has a crop readily available. 
  • Seek ways to use greenhouse-type products in your menu. This can definitely be done if herbs or other hybrid varieties of produce can be found. 
  • Maintain flexibility whenever possible on menus. Avoid specifying particular vegetables or fruits whenever possible.
  • Look at alternate pack sizes that may be more cost-friendly.

Nobody can truly predict what Mother Nature has up her sleeve. But by having a plan before the next natural disaster occurs you can better protect your ingredients, menu items and customer expectations. 

Topics: Equipment & Supplies, Financial Management, Food & Beverage, Insurance / Risk Management, Pizza Ingredients

Andrew Rosenbloom

Andy Rosenbloom is a foodservice professional who heads up the marketing team at the Buyers Edge Platform and its associated GPO brands, including Dining Alliance, Consolidated Concepts, Buyers Edge, FoodBAM and others. Andy’s insights come from a cross-section of the operators, distributors, manufacturers, service providers and trend-watchers.

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