‘Only the strongest will survive’: Restaurants cope with supply chain issues

Special Reports

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Adapt, make do, and improvise are three words Middle Tennessee restaurant operators are hearing these days along with the phrase “only the strongest will survive.”

It’s what many conclude as the supply chain crisis and labor shortage has crippled many in the service industry.

The Country Café, located on Murfreesboro Road in Nashville, typically keeps the place full even between the breakfast and lunch rush. But, one thing manager Jimmy Elkins cannot guarantee these days is what will show up on the delivery truck.

“You know, you just never know, ” he said.

And it’s not just food items. It’s everything from paper products to the main course. “For instance, some weeks, we were like two or three weeks out, we couldn’t get chicken, we couldn’t get catfish. So, we just have to make do you know. Our customers are pretty understanding,“ said Elkins.

Additionally, the costs are going up, “It is the food cost and everything in general has went up quite a bit. So yeah, since 2019, it’s one of over double I would say.”

A sign above the restaurant’s prep line perhaps sums up the feeling about the current situation. It reads, “Your bad planning shouldn’t be my emergency.”

It’s a challenge no doubt, and a sign of the troubling supply chain times.

And it’s the same story pretty much everywhere, like at Franklin’s new hot entry in the market, Tamale Joe’s.

Owner Joe Morales started a new restaurant concept with a number of unexpected challenges.

“It’s the downstream stuff. The prices increase. The challenges in getting supplies, and finding labor” Morales said, “You know, all those things come into play.”

He added, “The most creative person will, or I guess, the most creative company will be the ones that are left standing at the end of this.”

At Tamale Joe’s it’s been all about adapting to the climate. “Most of our friends in the restaurant business right now, they say when a truck pulls up you never know what you are going to get.”

Morales continued, “Things are out of stock for months. Prices on certain things are through the roof. So, you have to make do with something maybe not quite what you intended on serving or displaying.”

For Morales, it’s simple – no excuses. Customer appreciation and a 100-year-old secret tamale recipe keeps them going.

“Well, that’s the secret. That’s my grandmother Kasia used to say that it’s the love behind it. It’s a labor of love, and she blesses each one. I think that’s what her secret was that made them come out just as great as they came out and, you know, we’re carrying that forward,” Morales said.

Many have advised that the supply chain crisis will be here for the long term, and in the restaurant business, it will no doubt put any owner to the ultimate test.

News 2 continues its in-depth coverage of the stressed supply chain in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Keep up with the latest information as we head into the holiday season with our reports ‘Supply Chain SOS.’

Unfortunately, in the end some of our favorite restaurants may disappear like the many products we’ve come to expect on our store shelves.

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