About 1,000 Wendy’s restaurants, a fifth of the company’s American outlets, had to stop serving hamburgers and other beef-based menu items, in the latest sign of an escalating threat of a national meat shortage caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Wendy’s customers in various US locations have reported being unable to purchase burgers at restaurants belonging to one of the world’s largest hamburger chains. The fast-food chain that touts its burgers as fresh and never frozen, has confirmed it is experiencing problems with beef suppliers.
“It is widely known that beef suppliers across North America are currently facing production challenges,” the company said in an email. “However, some of our menu items may be in short supply from time to time at some restaurants in this current environment.”
Wendy’s is making hamburger deliveries two to three times a week to restaurants and is working with suppliers to monitor the situation. The company said it’s trying to minimize the impact on restaurants and customers. Some states have been particularly affected, with restaurants in Ohio, Michigan and New York running extremely low on fresh meat, while other states such as Arizona and Nevada haven’t been hit as badly.
Wendy’s meatless phase is a symptom of a broader slowdown in America’s meat production as thousands of workers in processing plants have fallen sick from COVID-19, and facilities shutter due to fears of further spread of the virus. About a dozen slaughterhouses shut last month because of infections among employees jammed together on processing lines.
Tyson Foods, one of America’s largest meat producers, said its output of pork is down by 50 percent despite measures it claims it has taken to physically distance workers and ensure the supply of meat. The company recently took out a full-page advert in the New York Times to warn that the “food supply chain is breaking” due to a highly unusual situation where both the production and distribution of meat has been crippled by a public health emergency.
Over the past month, Tyson has closed three major plants in Iowa and one in Indiana after many employees fell sick from COVID-19. Its beef-processing operations in Washington state and Nebraska have also shut down after a spate of infections.
Wendy’s is more affected by the shortage than other fast-food chains because of its focus on fresh beef. But luckily, the short outage won’t last forever and there could be a quick improvement in supply. Despite a 16 percent drop in stock value so far this year, sales trends at Wendy’s have been strong in recent weeks, adapting to new health and safety standards amid the pandemic.