Fast food chains like McDonald’s, Starbucks, and Popeyes are taking extra precautions to avoid shortages amid supply chain disruptions and increased sales

Mcdonalds bag
McDonald’s brown paper bag. Scott Olson/Getty Images
  • McDonald’s say it is keeping an eye on a tight supply of straws and paper bags.
  • Drive-thru and takeout orders increased over the past year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Fast food supply chains are under added pressure with sales up.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A tightening of key supplies like paper bags and straws is adding to pressure faced by fast food chains.

McDonald’s told franchisees to limit orders of bags and straws after high usage during the COVID-19 pandemic, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The chain says that customers are unlikely to notice anything amiss in restaurants.

“Despite temporary pressures in the industry, the impact to restaurants is minimal. Based on what we know today, we are confident customers should not see disruption to supply of bags or straws. We will continue to watch closely,” McDonald’s told Insider.

Fast food restaurants’ supply chains are under immense pressure right now, and bags and straws are just the latest issues. Drive-thrus became the primary way restaurants served customers for much of the pandemic, necessitating more paper bags than usual. McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Starbucks, and other major chains all relied on drive-thrus over the last year, and invested heavily in them, which paid off as sales at McDonald’s were above 2020 and 2019 so far this year.

Unsurprisingly, sales of unbleached bag and sack paper, which are used to make to to-go bags, were up 12% in 2020 over the previous year, according to the American Forest and Paper Association.

Other fast food supply chains have faced bumps, too. In April, more than a dozen baristas told Insider that Starbucks stores were experiencing shortages of cups, flavored syrups, and baked goods. In June, Insider reported on an internal memo that Starbucks was putting 25 items on temporary hold because of supply chain issues.

Popeyes took precautions to avoid shortages ahead of the chicken nugget launch this summer. The chain spent six months stockpiling frozen chicken to meet demand curb supply issues, a spokesperson told Insider.

The entire restaurant industry is facing supply chain issues, causing shortages and impacting customers. In July, Taco Bell told customers that it doesn’t have several ingredients, and posts on social media called out shortages of staple ingredients including chicken, beef, and several different types of taco shells. The chain told Insider shortages were due to “national transportation delays,” that are impacting the entire industry. Meanwhile, Chipotle customers say that they’ve visited locations that were out of vegetables, guacamole, steak, rice, and even tortillas.

Chipotle, Chick-fil-A, Starbucks, and Popeyes all told Insider that they aren’t experiencing straw or bag shortages right now.

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