Brave new world: diners returning to restaurants will want to be reassured of safety measures. They may wear protective face masks and expect preventative measures, like hand santizer gel, at the table.

Beyond devastating the restaurant industry, coronavirus has also turned the supply chain world upside down.

In addition to restaurants closing their dining rooms and converting to takeout-and-delivery models, some manufacturers have had to shut down their plants due to COVID-19 outbreaks, disrupting operations and causing temporary product shortages. The pandemic has changed the way everyone does business.

Recently, executives of several manufacturing companies participated in a webinar hosted by the Council of State Restaurant Associations. The executives – Unilever Food Solution’s David Fink, Sara Lee Bakery’s Don DiGuglielmo, Pactiv Advanced Packaging Solutions’ Jeff Way, and Tyson Foods’ Joe Cooney, shared their thoughts on how restaurant and supply chain businesses are going to operate once they reset and reopen fully.

John Davie, CEO of Dining Alliance, moderated the program with Suzanne Bohle, the CSRA’s executive vice president.

Top takeaways include:

John Davie, Dining Alliance
“Restaurateurs who are reopening and asking what they should do regarding supply chain should prepare to engage smaller suppliers who have multiple sources of product. Operators should not rely on just one vendor. They need to be able to get everything they need. As restaurants open fully, most distributors will experience some shortages. Restaurants wanting to make sure they have everything they need should have a few different channels to rely on, especially when it comes to specialty products.”

David Fink, Unilever Food Solutions
“There’ll be a need for more speed-scratch items. For example, the more upscale restaurants that make their own soups, stocks and sauces may look for more creative, ready-made products that only require them to add some fresh ingredients to personalize them. The reason: some of the restaurants may be short-staffed and unable to bring back all of their employees at once.”

Joe Cooney, Tyson Foods
“We’re trying to make sure we have the necessary supplies for both restaurants and grocery operators. Decisions right now are fluid, and a number of conversations are going on. There is potential for short-term shortages, and it could be that there will be shifts to different types of meat, like pork bellies, which are bacon items, or hams, which are bigger in foodservice than at supermarkets. There’s an abundance of both. Chuck beef, which is used to make burgers, is mass consumption, in higher demand, and harder to get. We’re not looking to change what we provide to the marketplace. In fact, we see a bit of expansion because there will be new solutions needed to satisfy curbside and to-go services.”

Don DiGuglielmo, Sara Lee Bakery
“Our company is keeping a close eye on all developments, and sees a shift to more individually wrapped and more pre-sliced items tied to labor savings.”

Jeff Way, Pactiv Advanced Packaging Solutions
“One thing we’re focusing on is creating better takeout/to-go solutions. Our sales team members have also said we need to find a supplier of sanitary packets or wipes so that instead of putting a standard, moist towelette inside our cutlery kits, we can include a sanitizing gel. That’s what we’re thinking about –providing a way you can sanitize your hands before you begin to enjoy the food.”