The topic of supplies and where we get them has been a popular conversation piece in BC with the recent flooding, but one Prince George resident says this has been a much more diverse problem.
Dustin Hedstrom has an extensive background in the foodservice industry.
He’s the Executive Chef at the Prestige Hotel in Prince George and is responsible for Ambrosia Greek Taverna, Grand Trunk Tavern, and Benedicts Bistro.
He also oversees catering at the Hart Community Centre, and his most recent endeavor, Barbed Wire, which is a virtual restaurant that offers delivery and takeout.
“The supply chain disruptions are diverse. They’ve been happening for a long time for different reasons. It’s impossible to fully prepare for them,” said Hedstrom.
He said the flooding and mudslides are just one element of what can disrupt modern restaurant supply chains, and uses the ship that blocked the Suez Canal, the EverGiven, as another example.
“For instance, all it takes is one big ship to be blocking one canal for prices to spike, and when that happens restaurants are really hit the hardest because margins are already thin.”
Hedstrom said people expect consistency at restaurants, and want to see the same items on their menus year-round.
He suggested that this is a multi-faceted problem, but gave some examples of where the industry will have to change.
“People are going to have to start to adapt to what’s seasonally available, what’s locally available. Otherwise, the margins just aren’t going to be there for restaurants anymore. Or they’ll have to raise prices higher than the average consumer is going to want to pay to go out to dinner.”
He also said businesses should de-centralize their purchases and minimize how far their food has to travel to get to their restaurant, and also suggested that guests should curb their expectations, especially during a crisis.
“I know our businesses are looking by the end of 2022 to switch to a majority of locally sourced products, like within 250 km, for our staples. But that is obviously very challenging in the north, particularly when you’re talking about produce,” said Hedstrom.
The Regional District of Fraser-Fort George has even touched on local food supply, with board member Joan Atkinson saying farmland needed to be protected, and not converted for industrial use.
“The current crisis in our province clearly highlights the fragility of food security. And we must be making progress on this. So the removal of agricultural land reserve for industrial use is not, in my opinion, the responsible or right thing to do,” said Atkinson.