The COVID-19 pandemic continues to plague aspects of everyday life, including the U.S. supply chain, posing a new set of challenges to reopening businesses and restaurants and in Miami’s case – many dining locations across campus.
According to The White House’s blog, product shortages and supply-chain disruptions are widespread.
Product procurement issues and inconsistencies have affected a range of services, including institutional food-services in schools and universities.
Miami is no exception to this trend.
In an email to The Miami Student, Laurie Sampson, manager of strategic procurement, wrote Miami has experienced several issues with its vendors.
“The supply chain has been very challenging the last year,” Sampson wrote. “The entire food service industry is experiencing issues with getting food and supplies, unfortunately this does include Miami.”
Most of Miami’s supplies are provided by US Foods, who could not be reached for comment.
In an email to The Student, Geno Svec, executive director of Campus Services, wrote there have been disruptions getting products such as produce, dairy, beef, chicken, pork and pizza crust.
The dining hall menus have been adjusted according to product availability.
“We are working with manufacturers to look at the products they are producing to see if they will work within our program,” Sampson wrote. “Flexibility has been key.”
Svec wrote the quality of product has not decreased, and there are no concerns that dining halls will run out of food.
Sampson agreed and said issues caused by the supply chain are often remedied internally.
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“The issues we have had, while annoying, have not prevented us from having food,” Sampson wrote. “We look at the anticipated shortages and adjust the menu as needed.”
According to Business Insider, food suppliers are in desperate need for truck drivers to transport goods. At Miami, no vendors have missed their regular delivery schedules, but dining halls may not receive everything they ordered.
Between erratic deliveries and limited product availability, prices of certain goods have also increased. Sampson wrote that prices are high “across all commodities,” and Miami is working with vendors to buy products before prices increase.
“Our prices fluctuate according to the market, just like you would see in a grocery store,” Svec wrote.
Some students have noticed empty shelves in on-campus stores like Emporium and MacCracken Street Market. Junior accountancy major Abigail Froehlich said that Emporium was out of several snacks a few days after she saw employees restocking.
“I went [to Emporium] yesterday and I wanted to just get something for breakfast and I could not find anything that wasn't pop tarts,” Froehlich said. “Everything was empty.”
Uptown businesses have also suffered in the wake of these supply challenges.
Andrew Amarantos, co-owner of Skipper’s Pub and Top Deck, said he’s faced difficulties with labor and product availability, causing some of Skipper’s menu items to potentially not be available to customers.
“Things are really kind of crazy right now,” Amarantos said. “I don’t think our customers or the students or the general population have any idea what’s really going on with restaurants now.”
In addition to food products, other shortages have caused issues for businesses and restaurants. Recent resin shortages have made plastic expensive and hard to acquire, leaving business owners like Amarantos concerned.
Sampson believes the problem is a combination of manufacturer issues and a lack of labor.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the lack of available workers has been the largest pressure on the food service sector, impacting multiple levels of the supply chain from production to distribution.
“[Manufacturers] don’t have the labor needed to keep up with the demand,” Sampson wrote. “Once the product is produced, they don’t have the drivers to deliver it.”
Sampson doesn’t believe there will be a resolution anytime soon.
“People are key to fixing the supply chain,” Sampson wrote. “Manufacturers need to fill their open positions, [but] that doesn’t guarantee a fix.”
Additional reporting was contributed by Assistant Campus & Community Editor Shr-Hua Moore.