Smithfield Culinary

How Some Chefs are Handling Supply Chain and Labor Issues

An unreliable labor market and supply chain have chefs getting back to basics.

The National Restaurant Association recently reported that 57 percent of operators consider the ongoing labor crisis their biggest current challenge. That number was up from roughly 8 percent at the outset of 2021, meaning the situation has only grown more pressing as the year has progressed.

At the same time, with the labor crisis being such an oft-discussed issue, some might wonder how the number is only 57 percent. The answer to that might be that a second and burgeoning challenge is the unreliable supply chain that has affected chefs’ ability to construct consistent menus.

“Those are truly the two biggest challenges we as chefs are facing right now—it’s tough to find help, and it’s been hard to get product in reliably,” says Nicholas Karoly, executive chef of the Diamond Club at Yankee Stadium in New York. “And it’s a shame, because, at the same time, demand has never been higher. People want to eat at restaurants, get takeout food, but it’s hard to create menus when you don’t know what’s going to be available and when.”

One way Karoly and other chefs have been able to circumvent these challenges is by partnering with reliable vendors that are capable of providing delicious, ready-to-use proteins that can serve as the backbone of ever-popular items that are equally good in house or to go, like handhelds, salads, and soups. One such product that Karoly loves is Smithfield’s Fully-Cooked Bacon Bits, which he uses in a host of applications, including salads, potato toppings, and soups.

Perfect for a handheld, Karoly also loves Smithfield’s SmokeNFast Pulled Pork Shoulder, calling it “something special.”  The product affords a specific labor-trimming opportunity in that, as most operators know, the prep work, smoking, and cooking of pork shoulder is a time-intensive process. Not only does the product help cut back on labor, but Smithfield’s SmokeNFast Pulled Pork Shoulder is more consistent than most any scratch-made alternative.

“Especially if you have multiple properties, making pulled pork that tastes the same time and time again is super challenging,” Karoly says. “In fact, it’s just not going to happen, because there are so many variables involved in the process. Smithfield’s fully-cooked products are really consistent, high-quality products that you can serve to guests and get rave reviews each time.”

At a time when so much is out of a chef’s hands, Karoly and his colleagues take solace in the fact that they can count on Smithfield’s products and culinary expertise. The fully-cooked products, in particular, help solve the labor crisis in a new way, saving hours of prep per week. They are products that chefs like Karoly take pride in standing behind, too.

“Smithfield has a lot of transparency,” Karoly says. “You know what goes into their products, and that makes you feel better about serving them. It’s only recently that I’ve introduced their ready-to-go products, but people love them. I’ve always used Smithfield as a meat vendor because they have a broad line of consistent, great products that make a chef’s life easier.”

For more on Smithfield’s fully-cooked products, visit