The Steelhead Diner, owned by Kevin and Terresa Davis, is closed on March 8, 2020, in Seattle. According to the owners, the restaurant closed “due to the social and economic impacts” over COVID-19. (Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)
While the COVID-19 pandemic is causing food supply shortages in some parts of the country, a restaurant expert believes this won’t happen in Washington state.
Food supply shortages are occurring when processing plants have to shut down because of outbreaks or decreased demand from restaurants. For example, Tyson Foods had to temporarily shut down production in its Eastern Washington beef plant due to an outbreak in the facility.
Anthony Anton, CEO of the Washington Hospitality Association, said he doesn’t know of food shortages for Puget Sound restaurants currently and doesn’t foresee any shortages for the future.
However, he said, this hinges on the ability of restaurant owners to be flexible. If they can be content with a different supplier, they should still be able to get the same product.
How Washington has managed to avoid food shortages
“If you’ve had a set brand of, ‘I’ve always had this brand of chicken strip, I’ve always used this brand of chicken strip,’ I might have to be a little bit flexible on having others that are available,” he said.
As long as a restaurateur is willing to switch suppliers, he said, the food item can nearly always be found.
Restaurants can also make menu changes.
“As you have a short-term menu that’s different than your traditional menu, it allows you the flexibility to say, ‘All right, I have to pivot this week and move that direction,’” he said. “I’m not worried about the overall food supply.”
Anton advises all restaurant owners, especially owners of the smallest restaurants, to talk to their suppliers now and run menus by them, so any changes in supplier or product can be made soon. The more plans that can be set in place before Phase 2 begins, the better, he said.
Phase 2, which is tentatively expected by government officials to begin June 1, will see restaurant dining rooms open to 50 percent capacity.
It’s also very important is for restaurant owners, like grocery shoppers, to avoid panic-buying.
“Let’s learn the lesson from toilet paper — let’s not hoard,” he said. “If everyone buys what they need to get them through the week, we’ll be fine.”