In a November 2021 survey from the National Restaurant Association, 77 percent of operators said their restaurant did not have enough employees to support existing customer demand. So, as the labor crunch continues, operators are tasked with reducing labor costs however they can.
Pivotally, labor issues have also disrupted vendors along the supply chain, further complicating matters for operators. Not only is it difficult to fully staff a restaurant capable of preparing food, but it is also challenging to find the food to prep.
Strategies to combat these issues might include adopting reliable, shelf-stable menu items, or even finding shelf-stable substitutions for ingredients that are labor-intensive further up the supply chain. The labor crisis is affecting all industries, and restaurant operators are looking for SKUs that aren’t beholden to complex supply chains for on-time delivery.
Especially now, operators need to know they can count on their suppliers. Knouse Foods, a grower-owned cooperative of family farms, offers a range of processed fruit products that please customers and are easy to serve. Even during the labor crisis, Knouse has been able to maintain high service levels to operators who depend on them.
“It’s very challenging times with the supply chain overall,” says Todd Michael, senior director of foodservice sales at Knouse Foods. “But our service levels remain in the 90th percentile.”
Knouse products—like Musselman’s Apple Sauce, which comes in a variety of packaging including cups, pouches, plastic jars, and No. 10 cans—are shelf-stable, require zero prep, and can help food costs by reducing spoilage. They also arrive pre-packaged, which eliminates time and labor spent on preparation in the kitchen.
“The benefits of shelf-stable products is that you’re not having that waste factor because of a short shelf life,” Michael says. “It’s also one less thing you have to manage when it comes to inventory.”
Faced with the ongoing labor crisis, every detail matters to operators—even more than usual. Converting to low-labor, shelf-stable products like those from Knouse Foods provide one more opportunity to protect the bottom line.
“When you have a labor shortage like this, our products offer a longer life term than other products,” Michael says. “It’s not like fresh fruit where there are short supply lines that require a lot of labor to get into your store and then to cut up within your store. These are reliable, shelf-stable products in convenient packaging, making them easy to store just about anywhere within your footprint.”
As a grower-owned cooperative, Knouse Foods takes pride in cultivating real relationships at every point on the supply chain—from growers to operators. Musselman’s Apple Sauce, for example, honors growers by featuring them on its packaging. The goal is to put a name and a face to the products, sharing authentic stories with consumers. Consumers will then associate these stories with the restaurant where they purchased the item, creating a positive feedback loop and strengthening their relationship with the operator’s brand.
“This new packaging is really just a way to continue to celebrate our growers,” says Kevin Blacker, director of marketing with Knouse Foods. “It aligns with our philosophy of wanting our end users—in this case, restaurants—to understand there’s a story behind our applesauce, and it’s one we take a lot of pride in. That’s the real backbone of that intimate relationship we have with our customers, and our customers have with theirs.”
By Kara Phelps