Food Service Industry Veteran Relies on Direct Communication and Flexibility to Survive Surging Prices and Product Shortages
Panacea Management Group (PMG) Consulting is preparing restaurant clients for the long-term effects of supply chain challenges. As a restaurant operations veteran, PMG founder Lee Schulman knows that the supply chain effects of COVID-19 will have lasting implications for restaurateurs and provides insight to help restaurants not only survive this difficult time but also to thrive and grow in the future.
“The key right now is flexibility,” says Schulman. “Restaurants are historically inflexible when it comes to menus and standards, and the thought process has always been that moving away from those standards means sacrificing quality. But this doesn’t have to be the case, and restaurateurs must now be open to change to a much greater degree than ever before. Food and labor costs aren’t going to go down any time soon, and margins will be challenged for a long time.”
Schulman, who also owns Old Vinings Inn, has faced all the same challenges throughout his three-decade career in the restaurant industry and can relate to clients through both his career experience with such respected companies as Morrison Restaurants, Inc., Buckhead Life Restaurant Group and Here to Serve Restaurants, as well as his current ownership role. He rolls with the punches daily at his restaurant and uses his own menu as a point of reference for operational challenges.
“We’ve had a high-quality filet mignon on the menu for the past 10 years, but when COVID came along, filet prices almost tripled,” he explains. “To serve the same cut of meat would mean tripling the price for guests, and at the same time, the quality became much less consistent. After reaching out to my vendor for alternatives, we came up with an American wagyu flatiron steak. I never thought I’d serve flatiron steak, but it’s a really high-quality piece of meat at a price that is fair to guests. We’re also getting great feedback on it.”
PMG strives to set clients up for success in the long run, not just the short term. Schulman’s ultimate goal is to provide restaurateurs with the kind of guidance and support he never received.
“When restaurateurs are having a cost or service issue with a vendor, they are inclined to drop the vendor,” says Schulman, who advises against vendor hopping. “That is the opposite of how I handle these things. My strategy is to get closer to the vendor and give them the opportunity to fix the problem, which is just not common in today’s climate of volatile rhetoric.”
That close relationship with vendors also builds trust and helps restaurateurs protect their business from supply chain disruptions in the future. “If the communication is there, vendors will tell you if the pricing on one of your signature items is fluctuating. Having those conversations helps minimize disruptions,” he adds.
Schulman expects this same direct communication between his team members and appreciates when guests feel comfortable enough to discuss problems with him as well. “I love when a guest tells me about a problem because it means I have the opportunity to fix it,” he says. “It gives the restaurant a chance to rise to a new standard, to be a hero and create a memory with the guest.
About Panacea Management Group Consulting
Panacea Management Group (PMG) Consulting is the newest venture from Lee Schulman, owner of Old Vinings Inn, former owner of Saltyard, and a restaurant operations veteran with three decades of experience. PMG Consulting offers consultations for new and existing restaurants as well as businesses looking to expand into food and beverage service. For more information, please visit pmgconsulting.us.