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On-Trend, Off-the-Shelf Products Help Address Supply Chain Challenges

October 11, 2023

Off-the-shelf products mitigate supply chain disruptions while helping to satisfy evolving customer demands.

On-Trend, Off-the-Shelf Products Help Address Supply Chain Challenges

Foodservice professionals across the country still struggle to manage unreliable ingredient inventories. However, savvy operators know that innovation is the best path forward. They lean into their creativity to craft menus that overcome challenges and satisfy customer demands. 

The combination of a troubled supply chain, labor shortages, and employee turnover has impacted restaurant operators who strive to deliver consistent, similarly executed meals to customers1. Foodservice operators can benefit from adopting several strategies to help them overcome supply chain hurdles. Consider the following best practices for working with restaurant food suppliers to find simplified menu alternatives.

Take a Shortcut to Manage Supply Chain Challenges

One of the most effective ways to beat supply chain concerns is to incorporate off-the-shelf (OTS) products into restaurant menus and limited-time offers (LTOs). OTS products are high-performing, non-exclusive items with immediate availability that help foodservice operators overcome restaurant supply chain management struggles.

Diane Willhoite, Commercial Development Manager for the Nestlé Professional Custom Innovation Group, says foodservice operators gain value from OTS products. “They offer both short- and long-term solutions,” Diane says.

“For operators who don’t have custom menu items and simply need a quality base for other menu items, OTS products are a great long-term solution. Off-the-shelf items are also likely to be in stock at our multiple distributors throughout the country for fast delivery.”

Diane Wilhoite
Diane Willhoite, Commercial Development Manager for the Nestlé Professional Custom Innovation Group

Anticipate, Initiate, Communicate, Innovate

Many wholesale food suppliers have increased their inventory transparency in recent years, but it’s still helpful for operators to initiate conversations about concerns such as product shortages and increased lead times. Having these early discussions encourages more open dialogue for the lifetime of a supplier relationship. For example, maintaining constant communication was found to be one of the most successful ways to combat supply chain disruption in 2022.1

“Communicating any changes in your forecast or your menu cycle is crucial for consistent supply from your suppliers,” says Diane. “For instance, if you’re adding a menu item or retiring one from your menu, the sooner you can communicate that, the better.

“You should also look for a supplier who’s responsive and proactive. The Nestlé Professional Custom Innovation Group schedules weekly or monthly inventory and forecast reviews with customers to ensure consistent supply."

Are you worried about lacking the ingredients needed to execute your most popular menu items? Explore packing options that can streamline your inventory logistics issues. Economic stresses from rising fuel and food prices have turned more attention to seeking products and packaging that match purchasing abilities and provide value without compromise.2

Build in Menu Flexibility with Ingredient Alternatives

Alternative ingredients and menu items are equally as important as ergonomic packing formats. Foodservice operators who want to wow their customers with the same high-quality specialties on every visit can’t afford supply chain issues. That’s where flexibility comes in.

When operators think ahead—and backup items are pre-approved—neither customers nor back-of-house staff members are as likely to feel the effects of supply chain tension. “Operators who order our off-the-shelf products don’t feel the supply chain impact as frequently,” Diane says. “As a bonus, Nestlé Professional off-the-shelf products are immediately available, so you can have them on hand when you need them most.”

Restaurant companies with fewer locations and logistical management issues have another option available to them— adopting a modified sourcing plan that includes alternative wholesale food suppliers. Nestlé Professional OTS products can step in as quality ingredient backups if another supplier is unable to deliver.

“We’ve seen huge popularity for our single-serve kids mac and cheese and alfredo sauce as alternatives to operators’ other suppliers when they can’t follow through. Operators lean on these products because, like other OTS items, we’re able to supply an alternative quickly,” Diane explains.

OTS products can help maintain customer satisfaction levels by offering consistent menu alternatives that are held to the same high standards as the original menu items.

Simplify and Amplify Your Menu

Your restaurant’s best-selling menu items draw customers back for repeat visits to enjoy foods they can’t duplicate at home. Go with your strengths. Take time to reflect on the menu items that are ordered consistently and get rave customer reviews. Compare these items to others that don’t perform as well and consider striking the latter from your menu. A simpler menu has many benefits, including a reduction in food waste and lower costs

Increase efficiency even more with products that reduce BOH prep time without compromising on flavor. OTS products from Nestlé Professional, for instance, tap into current top trends and foods that customers crave, including comfort fare.3  Updated comfort foods include creamy or cheese-rich pasta dishes, and creative spins on sandwich classics or meaty menu items like sausage and biscuits. OTS products ensure recipes are just as crave-worthy, with the bonus of avoiding supply chain inconsistencies.

Simple menus with fewer ingredients also decrease the need for BOH storage space. “Complex menus mean more stress on the supply chain, higher levels of stress in the kitchen, and a need for increased storage,” Diane explains. “Savvy foodservice operators decrease their need for storage whenever possible. Cross utilization of pantry items, for example, allows more menu creativity without additional complexity.”

Incorporate Multipurpose Ingredients

Choosing ingredients and products with multiple menu applications makes financial sense and culinary sense. Cross-utilization of ingredients can help:

  • Streamline kitchen prep to help save time and reduce labor costs
  • Require less time on the line and increase productivity because they are used for multiple dishes1
  • Give BOH staff the advantage of working with a streamlined ingredient list
  • Increase table turnover, as food comes out of the kitchen more quickly

Multipurpose ingredients used in more than one dish mean fewer supply chain interactions and less frequent supply chain delays.

Diane explains that OTS products, like single-serve mac n cheese, are a boon to operators who need items with multiple purposes, saying, “Single-serve products contribute to less food waste because they’re heated to order. Rather than opening and heating a large amount of one product, single serve allows for more control. Single-serve items can be customized with other pantry items already on hand, like different types of protein, spices, breadcrumbs, and more.”

Broaden Your Creativity Palette with OTS Products

Restaurant experiences continue to be part of the American lifestyle, with 84% of consumers saying that dining out with family and friends is a better use of their leisure time than preparing meals at home. 4 Additionally, the recent rising cost of groceries (up 13%) outpaced the rise in restaurant menu prices (8.5%).OTS products make it simpler to consistently create favorite menu items that keep customers loyal. Maintaining quality is crucial in a competitive environment where 87% of consumers say taste is the primary factor driving their food and beverage purchases. 5  

In addition to consistency, the versatility of OTS products also makes it easier for operators to provide intriguing taste experiences for adventurous diners. Add trending flavor notes from Southeast Asian, South American or Caribbean cuisines, or incorporate customized condiments such as sriracha or mayonnaise variations.

“OTS products also allow kitchen staff to get creative and embellish with pantry items,” Diane says. “Our culinary resources can help operators develop custom recipes that use OTS products in more creative ways. The Custom Innovation Group culinary staff are here to support your creativity.”

Put Nestlé Professional OTS Products to Work for You

Inflation and supply issues are predicted to persist for a while longer.1 Be ready for whatever comes next with off-the-shelf products for your menu. Today’s supply chain challenges call for a winning strategy that combines streamlined menus, multi-use ingredients, and maintaining open communication with suppliers. Creative menu solutions build in the flexibility that today’s foodservice operators need. OTS products help mitigate supply chain disruptions while helping to satisfy evolving customer demands.

“Operators have been greatly impacted by supply chain disruptions, but there’s hope when it comes to alternative strategies like incorporating Nestlé Professional OTS products,” Diane continues. “From the products themselves to innovating unique menu concepts with them, the Custom Innovation Group at Nestlé Professional can help inspire creativity.”

Approximately 47% of foodservice operators expect their level of competition to increase this year.4 Kitchen innovations like OTS products solve immediate needs and assist operators in maintaining their competitive edge. For personalized ingredient product suggestions, connect with the friendly and knowledgeable Nestlé Professional Custom Innovation Group™.


1Source: Kinetic 12, Emergence Q4 2022 Report

2Source: Mintel Global Packaging Trends, 2023

3 Source: National Restaurant Association, What’s Hot Culinary Forecast, 2023

4 Source: National Restaurant Association State of the Industry Report, 2023

5 Source: International Food Information Council, 2023 Food & Health Survey

The information provided is based on a general industry overview and is not specific to your business operation. Each business is unique, and decisions related to your business should be made after consultation with appropriate experts.