The Importance of a Careful Supply Chain Using Maryland Fried Chicken as an Example

For my project, I chose a company that is very close to my heart. Southern Food Services, LLC is my father’s business that he built from the ground up. My dad, Michael Belote, started out with just one small restaurant in Dublin, Ga. Since its beginning in 2011, Southern Food Services has grown to four restaurants. It consists of three Maryland Fried Chicken restaurants, located in Dublin, Swainsboro, and Soperton, Ga, and the fourth location is Dublin Deli, which is also located in Dublin. I have had the pleasure and the unique experience to be exposed to the ‘ins and outs’ of the business world at a very young age.

I began working at the first Maryland Fried Chicken location when I was 15 and have worked within the stores in some capacity ever since. I have seen just about everything you could think of in the restaurant business, from dealing with theft problems with employees, to dealing with food vendors. This project is a great way to showcase that meticulous Supply Chain Management is imperative to any successful business, no matter how big or small.

I chose to hone in one specific store and then decided to focus on one specific product. The chicken breast is one of the most popular items on the menu at the Dublin location of Maryland Fried Chicken. One chicken breast retails for $1.79. Fried chicken is a classic favorite and is a staple food, especially in south Georgia. Maryland Fried Chicken prides itself on having the top fried chicken in it’s local region. The superior taste at a reasonable price is one of the reasons it is a favorite among locals. However, with high demand that fluctuates throughout the month, it takes great attention to detail to meet the demands of the local customer base and keep the supply chain fluid.

The very beginning of the supply chain begins with the poultry farmer or “grower.” These grower’s raise hundreds of chickens, paying attention to the temperature, humidity, type of water and food, etc. that the chickens are exposed to. This process is also very tedious, as with any business, the poulterer wants to ensure the chickens they send off to be processed are premium. It typically takes around seven weeks for a chicken to meet the size and weight standards needed to be sent to a processing facility. Workers are trained to carefully hand catch the chickens and safely transport them in special made bins secured in trucks to the processing facility.

The second step in the supply chain is the delivery of the birds to the processing facility. Here is where the birds will be processed and prepared to make it to the vendor, which is the link to the retailers. During the time the product spends at the processing facility, the chicken will undergo testing and retesting to make sure it meets the health codes and standards of the USDA. The technology used in these processing facilities are extensive as they are heavily regulated and also are designed to make the process as painless and humane as possibly for the birds. Once the chicken is packaged, preserved, and ready to go, it moves on to the next phase in the chain.

Food vendors, such as US Foods, which is the vendor Maryland Fried Chicken uses, buy the cases from their select processing facilities and deliver it to the retailer. The vendor is responsible for negotiating fair prices with the processing facility so it can then, in turn, offer the best price to retailers. This is where a superiorly strong relationship throughout the supply chain becomes crucial. US Foods is the key negotiator and liaison between Maryland Fried Chicken and the processors. Fluctuations in prices are inevitable, however, if the fluctuation is too great, it drives demand down and customers will turn to a competitor. A mutual trust is needed between vendor and retailer, ensuring that both mutually benefit from the relationship and once again, the supply chain stays efficient and profitable.

Maryland’s buys the chicken from US Foods by the pound. Currently, US Foods sells 1 lb for $1.07. These pounds are sold by the case. Each case typically contains 52 lbs and holds an assortment of 140 pieces of white and dark meat. Roughly speaking, each piece of chicken would cost 40 cents. However, the chicken is valued based on its weight, and the smaller pieces, such as the wing, in actuality costs less. The breast sits at top shelf, as the juiciest and heaviest piece of meat, and is valued higher than other pieces. Maryland’s then sets the price of its inventory accordingly, factoring in labor costs and utilities.

Maryland’s places a weekly order for all of its inventory through US Foods and the delivery truck makes a timely and planned visit once a week. Once again, the relationship between vendor and retailer is so important. Even something as small as an untimely visit during lunch rush or dinner time, versus coming during the opportune times during the morning or slow times in the afternoon, can be a hindrance with sales for the day. It is important that the retailer does business with a dependable and timely vendor, because the orders are done weekly.

Management is in charge of counting the chicken and other items in each order and are responsible for verifying that the order has been filled correctly. It is then put into the proper storage, and for the chicken, this means being stored in the walk-in cooler. Chicken is left in its case, until it is time for the chicken to be marinated. A set number of white and dark meat is marinated on schedule to meet demands everyday. Once again, management is held responsible for following the meticulous inventory system that has been provided to them, ensuring that everyday, competitive priorities are met and the customer is happy.

The chicken is made in batches of white meat and dark meat that is put into a warmer on display for the customer to see. In the morning they will make a full pan of both white and dark meat and then continue replenishment throughout the day. The batch size is up to the cooks discretion depending on the time of day and the flow of customers. It is top priority that the warmers and displays are kept clean and food is fresh to have top appeal to the the customers. Cashiers are responsible for providing customer service and use of POS systems to correctly ring up each product sold. The POS is important in keeping track of inventory flowing out of the store and is used for making demand forecasts for coming weeks and months. Inventory is counted weekly to check behind cashiers and management to make sure that theft is kept at zero and that the POS systems are being used properly.

Ensuring that all of these processes are met and kept up to standard can be grueling. I am proud and have great respect for the time my father has put into making his four stores run like clockwork. Supply Chain Management is the key to keeping customers satisfied and for building a consistent image and customer base. While managing and negotiating the different elements of the supply chain are not always pretty, and incidents do occur where the process is deterred in one form or another, having a plan and the inclination to work to better your supply chain is key. The strongest businesses and the most successful businesses are the ones who can persevere through the hiccups and abate the mistakes in their supply chain design.

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