This year has been challenging for anyone in the food and beverage industry: from unexpected closings, to keeping supply chains running, to wondering whether a company will even make it through the year. It may not have been dire for everyone, of course, but there are some valuable lessons to be learned to prepare for a worst-case scenario: a second shutdown or slowdown in the supply chain.
Of course, we don’t know when or if this might happen, but food and beverage industry managers and employees alike can take action to be ready if things take a turn later this year or next.
Prepare Your Business for Hiccups
Whether you’re a CEO, a plant manager, or a restaurant manager, odds are this year has caused new and unexpected headaches. One important lesson you can take away is to look at your sales and future expectations and prepare for interruptions.
Nearly 75% of businesses in the United States experienced some supply chain interruption in the first month of the COVID-19 pandemic; a second wave of illnesses could cause this to happen again.
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The USDA and FDA have vowed that the food supply will not be interrupted — though shoppers might not have the same robust variety of products they’re used to.
The USDA must inspect meat and poultry products or they cannot be shipped; therefore, meat inspectors are considered essential and will not be pulled from their stations. However, plants might close down if there are outbreaks of COVID-19, as was the case with a Smithfield pork plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, in April.
How to address this issue? Work with local farmers or suppliers. They might be able to fill in any distribution gaps in your supply chain, with the bonus of supporting the local economy.
Keep an eye out for trends in dining if you manage a restaurant: Do you have options that would allow for more outdoor seating, weather permitting? Could you shift the menu to feature even more seasonal and locally sourced ingredients? Many retailers are incorporating a grocery store-type model, at least in part, to give customers a chance to buy ingredients as well as to-go meals, all in the same place.
Also, make sure you’re taking all the necessary steps to protect your employees. Require face wear masks when dealing with customers, conduct daily wellness checks and risk assessments for their exposure to COVID-19, and ensure there’s plenty of hand sanitizer around. If your employees need to work closely together, make sure they have the correct personal protective equipment to be safe.
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Prepare contingency plans for varying levels of interruption. If a municipality closes for a week due to a spike in cases, let your workers know this is a temporary situation and they’ll be coming back to work soon. Check your warehouses and distributors to see if they have extra room to store any goods that might spoil in the meantime. Or consider donating to a local food bank — a gesture that will reduce food waste and provide much-needed help for families in need.
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Workers Should Prepare for the Worst but Hope for the Best
Whether you’re a food service employee or work in a food production or distribution facility, the risk posed by COVID-19 is different. You are considered an essential employee, but work might slow down if the supply chain gets disrupted.
The most important thing to do is keep yourself safe — first and foremost, make sure you’re wearing the employer-provided personal protective equipment and washing your hands often to reduce the risk of spreading or contracting the virus.
Talk with your manager about contingencies. If your facility needs to shut down for a while, will you be eligible for unemployment? Could you pick up extra work now in case things slow down later? If there’s a shortage in one type of food product, demand for another might create an opportunity for overtime work, providing funds that could be stored away for leaner times.
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When restaurants had to close earlier this year, some eight million restaurant employees found themselves without work. There’s a chance some establishments will not reopen even as the number of illnesses decline. Now is a good time to review your resume and make sure it fully reflects your skills and abilities.
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If there are training opportunities or classes you’ve thought about taking to advance your career and add to your skillset, this is an opportune time. Potential employers will be interested in what you did during a shutdown; adding to your knowledge base and making the most of a bad time is both impressive and valuable.
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Tough Times Don’t Last; Tough People Do
The truth is, we don’t know what the future holds for the food and beverage industry in light of COVID-19. We all hope we’ve successfully flattened the curve and won’t have to face another shutdown for any length of time.
Taking a few moments to consider all options, shore up supply chains, and prepare for tough times can help managers, supply chain leaders, and employees alike.
We know these uncertain times are stressful, and Kinsa Group is ready to help you navigate the future. With over three decades of experience in the food and beverage industry, we’re prepared to help businesses address challenges head-on while helping employees prepare for their next steps.
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