Just as COVID-19 affected nearly every facet of society, we, too, had to quickly pivot amidst rapidly changing environments, particularly in our supply chain.
Quickly, we communicated our expectations to distribution partners and others who regularly access our restaurants to perform evaluations, maintenance and other necessary services and established a protocol for sharing information as needed to support safety concerns in our restaurants.
Supply chain disruptions, particularly in meat processing facilities, were widely reported following the onset of the pandemic and did have a short-term impact on Wendy’s ability to consistently supply our signature fresh, never-frozen beef to our restaurants in the U.S. and Canada.
We do not own or operate any supply chain or manufacturing operations at Wendy’s. We rely on our suppliers to be great partners with us to deliver the high-quality food our customers expect. Thanks to years of work building strong supplier relationships, we were able to successfully pivot many of our interactions with suppliers to virtual formats in the short term. For example, despite the pandemic, we have been able to continue to conduct facility evaluations remotely and to collaborate with suppliers on new products using virtual tools and data sharing between suppliers and our culinary and quality assurance teams. Other supply chain impacts involved newly needed items like face masks, gloves and social distancing signage where we had to quickly develop or expand supply sources to support our system.
Some of these changes have been or will be temporary. With optimism for COVID-19 coming under control as a public health crisis, we anticipate certain items and processes will not need to endure permanently, such as requirements for face coverings and social distancing, and restrictions on travel and group gatherings. In other areas, however, we anticipate that some of the COVID-19-driven changes to our supply chain and operations will continue, because they have enabled new ways for us to engage.
For example, we are currently piloting a project using Google Glass technology that may allow us to reduce some on-site travel while still observing certain suppliers from a quality, food safety and brand standard perspective. Additionally, many protein facilities that handle live animals use continuous video monitoring, which could be accessed to observe animal welfare and other required standards in a virtual way in the future. We also expect that there may be changes in certain federal, state and local or provincial requirements or regulations related to workplace safety conditions based on learnings from the COVID-19 pandemic. As with any area in which regulation evolves, the standards and practices that we expect from our suppliers will also evolve to reflect any heightened requirements placed on suppliers by relevant regulatory authorities.