CHICAGO (CBS) — The company that made “Where’s the beef?” famous is being asked that very question by thousands of customers as a beef shortage has dozens of Wendy’s stores in Illinois and hundreds nationwide out of burgers.
One Wendy’s in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood has no burgers and a sign reading “Please bear with us.”
But why only Wendy’s?
While other chains use cold storage to store beef Wendy’s does not. The chain uses “fresh, never frozen beef,” which makes regulating inventory tricky.
“When they start to see this bottleneck of trying to get at supplies, they’re going to slow down their purchases, and you’re seeing limiting in stores,” said economist Michael Nepveux with the American Farm Bureau Federation.
Analysts at Stephens Financial Services say Wendy’s is “more exposed given its famous focus on fresh beef” and 18% have listed all beef items as out of stock. That include 23% of Illinois stores and 34% of Indiana stores.
CBS 2 tried to order from several Chicago area stores Tuesday, none with beef products on the menu.
Phase one of America’s beef shortage was panic shopping, emptying store shelves. Phase two is a spike in COVID-19 cases at processing facilities where social distancing is tricky at best.
“These facilities are elbow to elbow, shoulder to shoulder type work, typically,” said Nepveux. “You’re going to see a slowdown in the amount of food coming out of these facilities.”
It’s forcing factories to reconfigure their workflow and Americans to reconfigure their diets.
These shortages are often regional. While several dozen Illinois Wendy’s restaurants are without burgers, Colorado, Nevada and Washington, DC are fully stocked.
Wendy’s officials told CBS 2 they’re working diligently to fix the shortages.
Nepveux says he expects bacon to be next on the “short supply” list.