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Sandy tests the food supply

2 min read

Restaurant and Foodservice

In the days and hours leading up to superstorm Sandy, residents of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut found most of the bottled water and nonperishables they were seeking on supermarket shelves, the result of a supply chain that becomes better at gauging demand as each natural disaster provides additional data.

In the immediate aftermath, restaurants and supermarkets faced shortages as closed roads, bridges and tunnels disrupted the supply chain. Stores running on backup generators amid power outages had huge stocks of meat, dairy and other perishable products that couldn’t be sold. Still, the situation wasn’t as dire and long lived as it might have been years ago, before the days of data-driven supply-chain systems, according to Wired.

Before the storm, Sysco stocked up stores and institutional customers, including hospitals, shelters and colleges, largely with nonperishable items. Based on projections built on data from past hurricanes and other natural disasters, the company and other big foodservice suppliers were able to prepare better and also get customers restocked more quickly after the storm, provided transportation routes were open.

Quickservice chains that were able to reopen soon after the storm likely fared best and probably saw higher-than-usual sales because customers’ choices were limited, NBC News reported. Even in areas where power came back on quickly, spoiled food had to be tossed, and supply-chain disruptions because of closed roads meant eateries that were able to open might have had to limit the menu and do without fresh bagels or cream in their coffee. Despite days of lost business for many chain restaurants, pent-up demand likely drove a fast recovery once they were back online, one analyst told NBC.

The same might have not been true for mom-and-pop groceries and independent restaurants in hard-hit communities, CNBC reported. Many worried about getting deliveries as distributors’ trucks sat in long gas lines and coped with multiple traffic restrictions.

While the overall supply chain might be on the mend, some players are feeling the pinch more than others. Sandy had weakened by the time it reached Maine, but the state’s lobstermen were still hit hard as restaurants and retailers in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania canceled orders amid power outages, The Associated Press reported.