Young and Hungry

A Tale of Two Restaurant Supply Lines During Snowmageddon


Want this burger? You can't have it!

It killed Mark Bucher, the founder and co-owner of BGR: The Burger Joint, to close on Saturday afternoon , just as hundreds converged on Dupont Circle to stage an epic snow ball fight. He heard from other eateries that they did double the business that day.

That could have been Bucher. He opened his third BGR shop in early November. But on Saturday he couldn't get the necessary supplies — the fresh beef from his Chicago source, the fresh buns from his local bakeries — to feed his customers. So he closed.

His three stores were all closed again today. Same reason: The supply trucks weren't running. That's the problem with operating a restaurant based on fresh ingredients. You can't just open the walk-in and pull out frozen patties for the day's service. No fresh ground beef and buns, no business.

"In a storm like this, I get fucked," Bucher tells Y&H. I ask Bucher if he wants that on the record. He doesn't hesitate, which should tell you something about the level of frustration this storm has caused restaurateurs.

"It just kills me," Bucher adds. "Your landlord isn't giving you breaks on rent." Nor can you stop paying your salaried managers. You just eat the costs on days like this, he says.

Part of the reason Casey Patten and David Mazza have managed to stay open this week is that the Taylor Gourmet co-owners piled into a car on Monday and drove to Philadelphia themselves to pick up the necessary Italian meats and Sarcone's rolls. It was an eight-out trip, there and back, but it helped keep the doors open, Patten tells Y&H.

It also helps that Patten and Mazza have a tight relationship with the owners of Matchbox. The Matchbox guys were able to supply Patten and Mazza with prosciutto, chicken, and paper goods when Taylor's stocks started to dwindle. Taylor's main problem now is its red pepper supply, which has run dry, Patten says. It has forced the owners to 86 about 15 percent of the items on the Taylor menu.

The truth is, Patten isn't sure how much longer the supplies will last. The bread from Monday's run is long gone, of course, although Taylor did get a fresh load of rolls in today, Patten says. Tomorrow's another story, however.

With the snow still falling, it's likely that Taylor's driver won't be able to make the usual early, early morning trip. "Unless there's a miracle," Patten says, "we're going to have to shut down" tomorrow.

I suspect Taylor won't be the only one.

  • monkeyrotica

    Would sourcing locally have made any difference here? I mean, you could probably still get beef from Virginia farms driven in, right? Seems a lot easier than flying it in from Illinois or having your rolls driven in from Philly.

  • telecomic

    @monkeyrotica - I would imagine it might have been a bit of a help, but as a chain, they are somewhat tied to certain suppliers. As a former restaurant manager myself, I think I would have bitten the bullet and gotten supplies from the local Restaurant Depots, Costco, Sam's Club, Cisco and farms. It makes much more sense to be open offering even a fraction of a menu to hungry city-dwellers than to be dark.

  • Kevin

    Whether food deliveries come in or not, I just hope that any restaurant staying open ensures that their employees can get home at night. It's pretty close to impossible to get a cab after midnight in these conditions... not to mention expensive. The decision to stay open can be profitable, but profit shouldn't take precedence over employee safety.

  • Daniel

    @telecomic Chain? What chain? BGR is a proprietor-owned business - Bucher just happens to own 3 of them. And if he can't serve the high-quality product he's known for, he could do more damage to his business long term than closing.

    I think the problem is the trucks just aren't making the runs into the city - wouldn't matter whether the truck started in Chicago or NoVA.

    @Kevin - I'm hearing stories all over of managers making sure their employees are either Metro convenient, or even putting them up in local hotels.

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  • hmm

    curious about Taylor going to philly to get their Italian meats. Last time in there, I saw a bunch of "arezzio" brand meats, which come from Sysco, not philly. Have they changed recently, or was that a temporary substitute one time?