Supply chain disruptions affect dining hall menus

OSWEGO, N.Y. – As SUNY Oswego dining services prepares for the spring semester, items that have been considered unavailable are taken off the menu. 

“If there are problems with getting the product consistently, then it will most likely be removed from the menu,” Daniel Siddons, director of resident dining at SUNY Oswego, said. “If it is something that we have had on and off difficulty getting, we will try and stock as much as possible.”

When dealing with a disruption in the supply chain, there are two ways companies can handle it. These can be described as short-term or long-term. Short-term is when a company will order a lot of inventory to ensure that they do not run out of a product until they can get more product or until they can outlast the supply chain disruption. The long-term response is when a company will work to find alternative sources of products. 

Auxiliary Services is imploring short-term methods of dealing with the disruption.

One of the biggest problems plaguing restaurants and other businesses is the lack of supply. This is caused by a problem in the supply chain. Companies are unable to get the products they need because they are unavailable or not affordable.

Consistently unavailable items are appetizers, things like jalapeno poppers and onion rings have to be substituted because they are not everyday use items. 

This is something that the dining hall has been encountering regularly for the last year. 

“This is a consistent issue we have been dealing with since the fall of 2021. The item availability changes week to week,” Siddons said. “What was unavailable one week is not what stays unavailable.” 

Although there seem to be issues getting specific products, Auxiliary Services has a system put in place when they cannot receive specific products from their vendors. Auxiliary Services is the department on campus that facilitates most events on campus, is in charge of the dining halls, and employs the workers, hourly and student staff. 

They get their meat products from Renzi, the milk from Upstate Farms, and Sysco is used to get the items that they cannot get from Renzi or another vendor.

Several factors have contributed to the supply chain issue. The biggest reason is the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic caused the world to go into lockdown. This meant there was a shortage of workers because guidelines kept people from being able to work at their jobs. The pandemic also caused a halt on the importation of goods from countries that were supplying them. This happened namely in China, one of the places where America imports a lot of its goods from. This happened because of the “zero-COVID policy” that China placed to keep its COVID-19 numbers low.

“Supply chain issues are not new,” Elizabeth Schmitt, professor of economics at SUNY Oswego, said. “They’re usually kind of isolated. But to have something so widespread is unusual in terms of the supply chain.”  

There are multiple issues that Schmitt believes have contributed to the supply chain issue that is plaguing many businesses. 

The first issue is that there is a chronic shortage of long-haul truck drivers. There is no one to deliver the goods from warehouses to the restaurants. Schmitt cites the lack of raising wages to be the cause of the shortage. 

Drivers do not want to make the long haul drive without being paid a substantial wage. Not having drivers means that the products are not being delivered or received.

A second issue that affects the supply chain is just-in-time production. 

According to Schmitt, some companies use just-in-time production. Companies do not want to pay to have their goods stored in a warehouse, so a delivery system is implemented to ensure that goods are delivered just in time. 

However, just-in-time delivery only works if the steps before the delivery are in order. With the state that the supply chain is in right now, it would be impossible for goods to be delivered just in time. 

There are many ways that companies can address the issue of a supply chain disruption, many experts believe that finding an alternative source of supply is the best way. 

This is something that Siddons works to do. When Renzi does not have the available meats, Sysco will help get the items or find the items that no one is stocking. 

Although the last year has been filled with supply chain problems, Siddons believes the dining halls are doing well in hiding the issues. 

“The biggest help to us is being able to keep those par [supply] levels up and keep a large supply of them, and for the most part, the students should never see the struggles,” Siddons said.