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How Smashburger found 'the smartest play' to avoid supply chain crisis

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Smashburger has found ways to stay afloat as global economic headwinds amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic continue to weigh on restaurants. 

The global supply chain is stretched thin, with worker shortages and restrictions caused by the virus making basic food items like hamburgers and chicken increasingly hard to come by. 

As the shortages pile up, the problem seems to be getting worse. McDonald's (MCD) temporarily removed milkshakes and bottled drinks at 1,250 UK stores due to supply chain disruptions. Meanwhile, Burger King (QSR) reportedly ran out of potatoes and french fries at one restaurant location in Florida.

Smashburger's Scorchin’ Hot Crispy Chicken Sandwich (Courtesy: Smashburger)
Smashburger's Scorchin’ Hot Crispy Chicken Sandwich (Courtesy: Smashburger)

"It's certainly challenging right now," Smashburger president Carl Bachmann told Yahoo Finance in a recent interview. 

The executive explained that the chain specializes "in some kind of redundancy" to avoid supply chain disruptions, with the fast casual brand using multiple vendors (who also use multiple providers) for its beef products. 

"So there's redundancy in those systems to make sure [that we have the products], and we did that throughout the pandemic," he said. Bachmann added that it's "the smartest play" when it comes to tackling supply chain headwinds.  

Furthermore, Jollibee Food Corporation, which owns Smashburger, buys poultry on a global level which helps the chain "secure chicken for quite a few months, or even years."

All of those moves "really help us guarantee delivery of products," Bachmann said, emphasizing that system redundancies and multiple providers are key to survival. 

'People are the most important asset we have'

Smashburger's new Queens location (Courtesy: Smashburger)
Smashburger's new Queens location (Courtesy: Smashburger)

Besides supply chain issues, the hospitality and leisure sector has also juggled an intense U.S. labor shortage with many former employees permanently leaving the workforce. It's made certain employers more focused on keeping workers happy and engaged

"People are the most important asset that we have and one of the things that we've done is really elevate the atmosphere," Bachmann told Yahoo Finance. 

"During a pandemic, we made sure they had everything they needed, we really treat our employees as frontliners," he said. 

The executive noted that the restaurant made sure to provide employees with protective gear, as well as competitive wages, in-store promotions, team development and a new tipping feature for customers. 

"When you're hired at Smashburger we're thinking about your career from day one — that's key. In this environment, people want to better themselves," Bachmann said. "The people that did come back to work quickly, they're really looking for opportunity. We provide that opportunity, training and ongoing learning so that people can move their careers up quickly." 

Overall, the company is leaning on digital transformations and third-party delivery companies to add to the customer experience — in addition to new menu offerings, like the Scorchin’ Hot Crispy Chicken Sandwich, which sold out at a few locations in just a few weeks. 

Alexandra is a Producer & Entertainment Correspondent at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @alliecanal8193

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