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A shortage of take-out containers and coffee cups


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While consumers are increasingly returning to restaurants, the demand for takeout continues to increase, which is causing shortages in items such as plastic straws and coffee cups.

As the economic crisis and new business challenges have created bottlenecks, the global supply chains are causing chaos. Many industries have felt the effects of shortages in semiconductors and other integral components.

Supply chain problems have led to rising food prices and shortages in key ingredients such as chicken for the restaurant industry. Even though consumers have begun to order from restaurants again, most are still not eating in dining rooms. According to NPD Group, September saw a 20% increase in off-premise restaurant orders compared to two years ago. Restaurant supply chains are under more strain due to higher demand for napkins, takeout containers and cups.

“It is more than food. It’s paper products, it’s plastics, it’s just everything — the packaging for the products that we get,” Penn Station East Coast Subs President Craig Dunaway said.

Takeout container manufacturers, straw producers, and restaurants that make to-go cups have been faced with rising shipping costs, an increase in labor costs, and increased spending on key materials like paper and resin.

No quick fix

Take, for example: International PaperIt was reported in October that the export business had to absorb an additional $50M in supply chain costs in the latest quarter. While the company no longer produces food service containers it does make corrugated and absorbent packaging that could be used as takeout packaging. Mark Sutton CEO, who stated that the timing of normalization in the supply chain is uncertain, suggested to investors that it could take place during the second quarter 2022.

David Pokorny is a food packaging specialist for Imperial Dade. He counts Eataly and Bluestone Lane as his customers. Even though the sharp fall in restaurant orders and the waves of closings have affected Manhattan restaurants, Pokorny said that there is still a 70% demand. Even though there are fewer orders than before, Pokorny spends his time sourcing the right products for his customers.

He said, “There are literally no straws, and very, very few clear, cold coffee cup cups.” People said that there was so little supply, they would just give it to them.

These shortages could be partly attributed to the February ice storm that hit Texas. The state’s petrochemical plants were shut down. This caused a shortage of plastics that was not fully resolved until months later. Petrochemicals play a crucial role in plastic straws, iced coffee cups and pizza boxes. They also help to make the latex used for packaging layers.

Pokorny explained that Imperial Dade has allowed the company to source other options for restaurants. Some items, however, can’t always be replaced. It has stopped selling certain products to distributors and instead focuses on fulfilling orders for primary clients. According to him, a major problem is the fact that the company imports their private label products. This has caused delays at ports. Many manufacturers also have outsourced production so that it is impossible to increase domestic capacity.

Pokorny stated, “It has been a soul-sucking period for the lack of a better word to describe it.”

Managing inventory

Takeout containers are sometimes more difficult to find for some restaurants due to the larger supply. U.S. FoodsBecause of labor issues, Penn Station Subs’ franchisees can only order a limited number of cases. It is now up to operators to determine how to handle their inventory. Dunaway stated that he encourages franchisees stockpile nonperishable items like cups and napkins branded to ensure they have enough supply.

“We took aggressive measures to minimise the effect of labor and supplier issues on our customers. “… We may work with certain customers in particular markets to temporarily adjust our orders while we deal with local challenges.” A spokesperson from U.S. Foods stated in a statement to CNBC.

Rival food service provider SyscoThe company declined to speak on its current supply-chain challenges. The company said that investors would be updated when it released its fiscal first-quarter results on Thursday.

It’s not just Penn Station Subs who are having trouble finding the right cups and containers. The Wall Street Journal reportedThis summer, coffee giants StarbucksIn some cafés there was a shortage of cups. although CEO Kevin Johnson denied the report on CNBC’s “Mad Money with Jim Cramer.”

However, there are opportunities when you have a shortage. Sara Burnett is the Panera Bread sustainability coordinator. She said that Panera Bread had difficulty finding suitable packaging for their hot sandwiches. This led them to look elsewhere and have a less negative impact on the environment.

She said, “We switched to thermal wraps that are compostable. They use 60% less material, take up much less space, and have a smaller shipping footprint.” It is sustainable in a way that benefits the company and the environment.