SugarCreek: Brandworthy Food Solutions

5 Tips for Handling Fast Food's Most Difficult Sourcing Issues

Posted by Dan Barton

Apr 15, 2016 11:30:00 AM

QSR specialty burger

Climbing to the top of the QSR food chain means optimizing the supply chain that feeds its growth, unique demands and all. As customers demand more — quality, expediency, price and ethical operation — from the foods they eat, procurement teams are compelled to juggle more than ever before. Getting the best results requires a broad-spectrum approach to sourcing and smart decisions at every step of the way.

There are five important considerations that should be on every procurement professional's to-do list.

1. Create Visibility that Translates

Most consumers have been misled too often to take QSR food-sourcing claims at face value. That means the burden of proof is on the provider, and thus, on their supply chain partners. Selecting sources that offer transparency and inter-connected data feeds from the start will make for a smooth translation to consumer information later on. For example, if your wholesale bacon supplier has trustworthy, verified information on their food handling practices, those claims can be parlayed into consumer-facing campaigns and information sources to encourage brand interest. In addition to active benefits, visibility passively protects against food safety concerns by providing a swift path back to a problem source.

2. Avoid a "Basket of Eggs" Situation

Building an ongoing relationship with your suppliers is important for establishing supply chain price points and consistent delivery schedules. Without enough built-in adjustment room, however, you risk backing yourself into a corner in the event of a product shortage or delivery issue. Even if you don't plan on using them regularly, you should have a backup distributor or alternate specialty food manufacturer for each of your major products or ingredients.

3. Don't Over-Extend Your Sources

If a little is good, a lot must be even better, right? Not necessarily. If you hype a certain menu item and fail to loop in your suppliers, you could end up with a few kinks in your fast food supply chain. If you'd like to add avocado to a seasonal salad product, or specialty bacon to a burger, it's in your best interests to share projected data along with your initial product orders. Sustainability doesn't just apply to the "green movement" — it also refers to balancing ordering needs and realistic fulfillment expectations along your food supply chain.

4. Be Ready to Change

Food blogs, fad diets, celebrity endorsements — the list of factors that affect QSR food popularity is nearly endless. As sales peak and valley, formulations and recipes often need adjustment along the way, and that means researching alternate ingredients as well as alternate suppliers. Along with your "backup vendors," you should also have a distributor of specialty foods on speed dial, waiting to step in if you need to swap out dairy milk for almond milk, or lean chicken instead of red meat. The likes and habits of QSR clientele can vary wildly from quarter to quarter, forcing you to hit a moving target of sourcing locale, nutritional information and current events. Be ready for it.

5. Near-Shore Whenever Possible

It's basic logic that the longer the distance a food product has to travel on the final, most critical, leg of its journey the greater the chance it will decline in quality. Using local suppliers, or locally sourced ingredients, whenever you can tends to hit the right chord with conscientious consumers while minimizing many fast food supply chain issues. If your go-to produce and meat suppliers are within driving distance, for example, a broken-down delivery truck doesn't have to bring your supplies to a grinding halt. Additionally, the locavore movement is a strong and enduring one among food trends. That means that boasting the relative "nearness" of your food sources is a smart move that will ultimately trend to the bottom line.

How Quick-Service Restaurants Can Find Balance

Written by: Dan Barton

Topics: Food Service, Supply Chain, QSR