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Supply chain problems affecting Anchorage restaurant menus

Anchorage restaurants are feeling the effects of supply chain issues and delays, to the point that it's taking a toll on their menus.
Published: Jan. 25, 2022 at 2:01 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - In downtown Anchorage, 49th State Brewing Company says its menu offers endless choices for customers.

“What makes us unique at 49th State Brewing Company is a large, diverse menu,” said CEO and Co-Founder, David McCarthy.

However, due to agriculture supply chain issues, the restaurant is now struggling to keep certain dishes available for customers.

“We make so many of our products and if we can’t get the raw ingredients, it’s been a challenge that ... I’ve never experienced in the food service industry,” McCarthy said.

In a standard restaurant service year, McCarthy said, the fill rate on their orders are approximately 97%, now they are seeing fill rates at around 80%.

“So that just gives you an example, that if you’re missing 10, 15% of your products that you use to make something, that it’s almost impossible to guarantee that’s going to be on the menu,” McCarthy said.

McCarthy said that the restaurant has had struggles filling seafood orders and even onion rings and french fries.

“We use a specific size onion, for that,” McCarthy said. “And because the yield last year was down for whatever related to COVID, we were told we’re not going to be able to get this size onion.”

The agriculture supply chain problem is universal right now.

“Everyone is having supply chain issues,” said David Schade, director for the Alaska Division of Agriculture under the Department of Natural Resources.

Schade said the supply chain issue happened overnight, two years ago, after many businesses had to shut down due lockdowns that occurred across the United States at the onset of the pandemic.

“People going and using restaurants and having cruise ships and all of that use of our products going through restaurants, and what we call industrial-scale kinds of agriculture — literally overnight that turned off,” Schade said.

This creates strains in the supply chain cycle. Schade said the issue continues to see today get stuck in the supply chain cycle due to transportation issues.

“So when, like last week, we had the four passes shut down going into Washington, to where all of the food that was headed to the Seattle, port couldn’t make it in,” Schade said.

According to the Department of Natural Resources, the Seattle ports were shut down for four days which created strains and shifts in the supply chain.

“That impacted filling the boats which impacted, you know, a week later we had bare shelves in Alaska,” Schade said.

According to Schade, there is not a current food shortage in the United States. Instead, there is a struggle in getting food delivered. This is causing restaurants to struggle in terms of figuring out what items will be available on their menu.

“Even the tonnage of potatoes we use for French fries, they’re not sure if they’re ever gonna fulfill us with the tonnage moving forward,” McCarthy said.

According to Schade, the current situation does not have an end date. He said that he does not expect things to reset until the end of the pandemic.

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