Grow Your Own is a growth industry

A recent visit to The Greyhound Pub & Dining Room in Beaconsfield was notable not only for the great quality and value of the set lunch I enjoyed, but also the enthusiasm of the pub’s owner for his burgeoning kitchen garden. 

Daniel Crump led me out the back of the grade-II listed 17th century former coaching inn to what can only be described as a very modest sized plot with several raised beds. But he enthusiastically ran me through his plans for adding some more beds beyond the pub’s garden tables, and the various herbs and vegetables he is looking forward to planting and harvesting in future seasons.

He is one of a growing number of pub and restaurant operators to have, over recent years, begun to cultivate a certain amount of produce on-site. The recently four AA rosette-awarded Forest Side in Cumbria has a strong advocate for such activity in head chef Paul Leonard, who generates more than 90% of the vegetables he requires from his kitchen garden during the summer months. He is some way ahead of Crump, but they both recognise that such moves are advantageous in terms of adding economic value, boosting quality and bolstering sustainability credentials. 

Such moves might also be moving into the realms of necessity for higher end food-focused operators, because with supply chains causing grief across the whole of the hospitality sector, growing your own is certainly helping them ease their burdens. Consider that over the past three months, as many as 54% of restaurants have had to remove items from their menus due to lack of availability, according to a survey from Deliveroo. The survey also found 55% of its partner restaurants acknowledged that managing their supply chains has become more difficult over the past six months.

The situation has markedly worsened, judging by a snapshot from Haysmacintrye, which found that supply chain was the second most challenging area after recruitment for hospitality companies, with 14% highlighting it as a “significant challenge” compared with only 2% in July. 

With more fractured and erratic supply chains looking like they could be a potentially long-term feature of the business landscape, it is not surprising that we are seeing significant moves around the world by organisations to take greater control of this essential part of their business. The trend has certainly been gathering pace within the retail sector, where companies who have traditionally outsourced much of their fulfillment operations to third-party specialists have been acquiring logistics firms and building their own distribution centres.

Some companies such as Ikea and Walmart are now chartering their own vessels in order to bypass the busiest ports and avoid the major bottlenecks. Even the mighty Amazon, with its logistical wizardry, has not been immune from the growing supply chain woes and has taken the radical step of building its own containers. Its moves are driven by a desire to address the shocking 14% rise in out-of-stock items it has endured since January.

There have also been moves to embrace vertical integration, whereby the linking up of manufacturing and distribution capabilities provides companies with early warning signs of issues, and the greater flexibility to address these problems. This model has been integral to the ongoing success of Hotel Chocolat, which owns a cocoa farm in Saint Lucia as well as operating its own manufacturing facilities in the UK. Much of this will no doubt sound very familiar to the large franchised quick service restaurant operators who are acutely sensitive to the globalised movement of produce, and will have their specialists looking to mitigate the present issues and put in place robust strategies for the future. 

The Rabot cocoa plantation belonging to Hotel Chocolat

But hospitality companies would be mistaken to think that the only people able to address supply chain issues are the large global operators with their hefty resources, and the high-end restaurants with their kitchen gardens. The reality is supply chains have myriad moving parts and every foodservice business, regardless of size and modus operandi, will have numerous opportunities to tinker with their existing arrangements in order to better insulate themselves from the uncertain and rocky road ahead.

Glynn Davis, editor of Retail Insider 

This piece was originally published on Propel Info where Glynn Davis writes a regular Friday opinion piece. Retail Insider would like to thank Propel for allowing the reproduction of this column.