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Food and beverage exhibitors speak on supply chain, labor challenges

Liquid Ice Energy Drink
Posted at 5:36 PM, Mar 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-23 01:09:08-04

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Because of the pandemic and rising inflation, it's been challenging for business owners across the country to keep their doors open and provide quality services for customers. But whether it's canned drinks or making your pizza, change is something businesses have to accommodate.

Michael Lam is committed to continue expanding and making Liquid Ice.

"We're happy that we're still growing," Lam said. "And we're doing what we need to do."

The energy drink company has been in business for 17 years and is an exhibitor at the Restaurant and Bar Expo in Las Vegas. He said the past two years have brought challenges.

"Production, supply chain demand," Lam said. "All that is all backed up."

Related Story: Industry leaders discuss labor shortages, inflation at inaugural Las Vegas Food and Beverage Week

Lam says the raw material costs to make and can the drink have gone up between 8 to 35 percent. He says materials are all made in the U.S., where transportation costs have grown.

"Trucking is an issue with the Ukraine war and gas prices," Lam said. "Naturally, that's going to go up."

That's no different for pizzeria owners at the International Pizza Expo. John Bellucci is the owner of John's Wildwood Pizza near Erie, Pennsylvania. He said while ingredient costs have gone up, he hasn't had to drastically increase prices.

"Our main supplier has done some work to lower his margins a little to kind of help the businesses and stuff, too,” Bellucci said.

Lam says Liquid Ice plans to be aggressive by not raising its prices to consumers and taking a slight revenue hit in the short term.

"We'll get more customers that way, by providing a superior product with a cost that's not going to keep escalating as cost structures go up,” Lam said.

Bellucci continues looking for workers. Across his two locations, he had about 60 employees pre-pandemic. Now, it's less than 50.

Food and beverage exhibitors speak on labor challenges

"We're having a hard time getting all the way to where we were before COVID," Belluci said. "We're learning how to do things with less people, which maybe is more efficient. Maybe it's better for us."

This includes updating ordering systems for pizzas and improving logistics.

"Actually, cutting out the middleman people that we had, like, taking the food up and running back and forth. It's interesting,” he said.

Pizza Expo show director Bill Oakley says getting and keeping labor is perhaps the pizza industry's number one issue. He continues saying pizzerias have raised wages to compete and ingrain themselves in their communities.

"Organizations. High schools. Universities, to try to find that labor and train them,” he said.

Oakley says some may stay in the pizza industry and eventually buy a shop of their own.

"That's how they get started, so it's a great little incubator,” he said.

Bellucci says his business has a strong community following and has been named best pizza in Erie by a local publication for a number of years. He's confident after attending the pizza expo.

"I'll pick up enough information so when I go back, I'll be fired up and ready to hit these problems head-on,” Belluci said.

The expos will continue through Thursday.