Justin Marx, chief executive officer of North American Meats & More, checks in with a progress report about the state of foodservice supply chains and supplier-buyer relationships.
“Things are much more normal than I thought they would be,” says Marx. As communities relax their restrictions on indoor dining and the wearing of masks, “it seems like people are bouncing back to old behaviors.”
What’s not normal are continuing issues of labor and supply availability. Marx sees a persistent misalignment between supply and demand. “For the most part,” he says, “vendors weren’t ready for what was coming.” And the dynamic between buyer and seller has shifted in favor of the latter, which isn’t the usual state of affairs in the restaurant business. Those buyers that maintained strong relationships with suppliers during “normal” times are the ones being favored when supply is tight. The advantage goes to restaurants and others that have been consistent, paid on time and had a partnership orientation. “They’re getting taken care of first,” says Marx, “compared with those that may have left a vendor because it found a five-cent better deal somewhere else, or there was some critical mistake.”
Localized sourcing of food is a continuing trend, but Marx says the ultimate model “is different for everybody — it’s not black and white.” The more important factor is the attitude of the chosen supplier to sustainability. “If a vendor is far away with better credentials, that’s a better move,” he says. One of his main sources of beef, New Zealand-based Silver Fern Farms, has committed to a 30% decrease in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. “It doesn’t make sense to buy from a local feed lot when you could buy something that’s pasture-raised by people trying to move forward with sustainability,” Marx says.
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