The pandemic has contributed to a wide range of shortages, and fast-food restaurants have felt a number of them. McDonald’s is now reportedly facing a shortage of paper bags.
For over a year, the fast-food chain was mostly limited to take-out orders, requiring even more bags than usual. Now that dining rooms have reopened in some areas, the Wall Street Journal reports that the company is pressing franchisees to serve dine-in meals on trays as they did before the pandemic.
Citing an internal McDonald’s communication, the Journal reports that many dine-in customers are requesting that their food be placed in bags. At the same time, the company said many new McDonald’s employees have never served food on trays and are more comfortable placing burgers and fries in paper bags.
“Transition to using trays has been slower, more difficult because we haven’t done it in so long,” the memo said.
Bags needed for drive-thru business
As a result, supplies of paper bags are running low. The communication from corporate headquarters asks restaurant owners to limit their order of bags because demand from the drive-thru business remains elevated.
Because of increased demand and nagging supply chain issues, restaurants around the country have experienced periodic shortages of other things that were once taken for granted in a fast-food restaurant. Several months ago, there was a shortage of ketchup packets and other condiments because of the sudden surge in take-out orders.
McDonald’s customer Eric, of Warner Robins, Ga., told ConsumerAffairs recently that one day his local McDonalds was running short of coffee cups.
“Pulled thru the drive-thru,” Eric posted in June. “Ordered a large coffee and they are out of large cups. So I ordered 2 mediums. Told me I couldn't order 2 mediums,” he said.
A larger shortage facing fast-food restaurants is labor. Nearly every chain has struggled to hire and maintain employees during the pandemic, causing some locations to limit business to drive-thru only.
Industry analysts say a persistent labor shortage could accelerate restaurants’ adoption of automation. A White Castle restaurant in a Chicago suburb has installed a robot that cooks French fries 23 hours a day.
Karen Bremer, CEO of the Georgia Restaurant Association, estimates that restaurants in her state need an additional 50,000 to 70,000 to maintain normal operations.
“Restaurateurs are struggling to find workers,” Bremer said in a statement. “Many have reduced hours and days open due to worker shortages. “Some are offering signing bonuses, guaranteed schedules, and higher hourly wages.”