Ask any hospitality business about its biggest challenge, and they'll say staff shortages. "That's forcing them to make choices," says Joost van Altena of Miedema AGF in Amsterdam, which supplies fruit and vegetables to that sector. "For example, many restaurants are adjusting their capacity."
"Some, with 80 seats, will only serve 60 due to the shortage. In this way, they can still provide their guests with the desired service. And they're closed far more too. Being open six or even seven days a week was commonplace a few years ago; now, many restaurants stick to four days to keep their staff and offer diners the expected quality," Joost continues.
"Also, chefs often switch from one restaurant to another. That's true across the board, whether it's a starred restaurant or a grand café. Some restaurants are more successful in retaining their staff. Sometimes, they choose not to have a qualified chef but to employ someone with a passion for food who learns quickly. They're finding creative solutions. We supply plenty of nearby beach eateries; there, it's even more common for personnel to come in when they can."
"Still, it's generally quite a pity that there's such a massive staff shortage. Everyone had hoped to bounce back after two years of COVID-19, which is only partly happening. However, I'm pretty curious about what's going to happen in the fall when everyone has to start paying their back taxes. Not everyone's bought their electricity at fixed prices. That could be quite problematic in these harsh times," the hospitality supplier says.
Due to this sector's staff shortage, Miedema AGF has noticed a significant increase in processed fruit and vegetable demand. "Some chefs preferred doing this themselves; now, they outsource as much as possible. And the nice thing is, once they get used to it, they don't want to go back. If they order 1mm carrots Julienne from us, they get exactly 1mm. They cannot get that consistent quality of freshly cut vegetables themselves. Our processing department uses very fresh produce. We don't order from stock. We can, thus, switch quickly and are on the ball."
According to Joost, the fruit and vegetable assortment's best sellers are the different salad mixes. "These can differ per company. One customer might choose Lollo Rosso and Bionda; another might add red lettuce or baby leaf. We genuinely produce purely per client demand."
"For instance, we currently have a mix of various cut vegetables for a buyer. They're cut in a certain way, creating an oven-roasted mix. We developed the composition, processing, and packaging method together. Diced cucumbers and tomatoes for, say, poké bowls are also doing great. As are the various raw foods and everything that be used as a garnish," he explains.
Plus, this year's warm summer has led to specific needs. "Every kind of weather and season has its requirements. When it's hot, celery, for example, is very popular. When it gets colder, it tends to be forgotten. There's currently plenty of demand for mussel vegetables and boiled beet to, for instance, accompany the new herring."
"The recent hot weather has also driven up sliced fruit sales. Since this year - as a direct consequence of the pandemic - we've been concentrating more on portion sizes of freshly cut fruit for the hotel and catering industry. We never used to do much of that, but COVID-19 gave us a true boost," Joost concludes.