As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt just about every part of the supply chain, owners of some Maine pizza restaurants are hoping that when customers have a pie to go and it’s not in. its usual box, they’ll remember it’s what’s inside that counts.
In a Facebook post on Thursday, Monte’s Fine Foods in Portland called Tennessee-based paper products supplier International Paper Co. for raising its minimum ordering requirements for custom printed pizza boxes “suddenly and without notice “.
Monte could, on average, order around 5,000 boxes at a time, said owner Steve Quattrucci. Under the new requirements, he said, that order is expected to more than triple to 17,500 – “much more than we or our distributor can handle at the same time.”
Unable to meet the new minimum, Monte’s iconic white pizza boxes with the company logo on top are temporarily unavailable.
International Paper responded by email to the Portland Press Herald with a statement about the supply chain issues that led to its decision.
âWe are experiencing congestion and cost pressure across all modes of transportation, as well as rising fuel, energy and fiber costs,â the company said. âLabor shortages also impact the supply chain in all industries. Given the challenges facing our broader U.S. supply chain in recent months, we hope that efforts to remove bottlenecks and speed up the movement of goods will be successful and may benefit the United States. entire supply chain. “
Quattrucci said her company is working to find another supplier, but until then, they are using generic brown pizza boxes.
Overall, it’s a small concession, but Quattrucci said the company has put a lot of time and effort into its brand and packaging, and repeat customers will notice the sudden change.
âWe have a premium product, we take great pride in the pizza we make and we want people to know where it comes from,â he said. “It’s the same special pizza they expect despite the generic packaging.”
Leo Micucci, owner of Micucci’s Wholesale Foods in Portland, is the distributor of Monte’s and more than 50 other companies that buy printed boxes, almost all of which will now have to do without. It doesn’t have the warehouse space, he said, to order triple the usual number of boxes for each company, and even if it did, it would take years for pizzerias to go through them all. .
Even for the boxes he can get, the wait times are significantly longer. What used to take two to three weeks now takes two to three months, regardless of which company Micucci goes through, he said.
âI’m doing everything I can to get as many pizza boxes in here as possible,â Micucci said. “This is absolutely crazy.”
Sherri Cunningham, manager of Pat’s Pizza in Orono, said the longtime pizzeria was also having problems getting boxes with the Pat’s logo, but managed to keep them by switching suppliers.
Other paper products have also been difficult to obtain.
Shell-style cardboard boxes for take-out and leftovers are scarce, according to Micucci, and Quattrucci said the company has been unable to source a special corrugated insert to keep the pizza from touching. the bottom of the box. He has found a substitute, he says, but it’s more expensive.
According to Business Insider, International Paper told investors in July that the supply of cardboard boxes was “very low” and warned that there would likely be bottlenecks in the supply chain for the rest of it. ‘year.
But supply chain issues extend far beyond just paper products.
âIn all my years of doing this, I’ve never seen anything close to what’s going on right now,â Micucci said.
Onion rings, chicken fingers, pizza sauce, frying oil, mushrooms – all are either nearly impossible to obtain or the prices are sky-high, sometimes triple what they were before the pandemic, he said. he declares.
Quattrucci accepted. For a given order, about half of the products usually come in and the other half are out of stock, he said.
âWe just have to keep ordering more, (to) try to keep the shelves full,â he said.
Prices on bills also continue to rise, Quattrucci said. The company is trying to avoid raising food prices too much to offset the additional costs, but menu prices have increased somewhat.
Cunningham, the manager of Pat’s Pizza, said supply chain issues caused the chain to temporarily remove some items from the menu.
For deliveries that arrive, they often arrive at erratic times, like 8:30 p.m. instead of the usual 9 a.m., or on a Saturday instead of during the week, she said.
This, compounded by the ongoing labor crisis which has made it difficult to find all the workers they need, has created new challenges.
The store, a staple in Orono since Cunningham’s grandfather Pat opened it 90 years ago, now offers take-out only during the day and opens for on-site dining from 4 to 9 p.m.
The restaurant is still doing well, as are other locations scattered across the state, but they’re certainly all feeling the tightening of the supply chain, Cunningham said.
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