Food & Beverage Demand Planning

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What do you do if an internet breaking campaign creates a shortage of products?

For Popeyes it all started with a simple tweet, which took only 15 minutes to write and has now been shared over 85,000 times, to create a social media feud that lead to record breaking demand for its products. Popeyes initially reaped the benefits of publicity in the battlefield, but the spat quickly led to shortages in supply for Popeyes. Drive-thru lines caused traffic jams in the roads, and some employees reported large orders and long shifts.

The Chicken Wars of 2019 between Popeyes and Chick-fil-a is a cautionary tale about the havoc social media can wreak on a supply chain.  To avoid squandering opportunities afforded by unprecedented demand, supply chains need to run like well-oiled machines. Here are four important lessons from the Chicken Wars of 2019.

Collaborative S&OP

Collaborative and cross-functional S&OP is no longer optional in a business environment where social media can upend supply chains at a moment’s notice. Collective intelligence from marketing, sales, procurement, finance, etc., helps decision makers access current information. Advances in technology, such as predictive analytics and cognitive computing, empower top companies to build forward-looking, dynamic planning systems that are nimble and can respond quickly to spikes in demand — or better yet, anticipate the situation.

Demand Sensing

In consumer facing industries, social media is a must when it comes to the company’s planning. Demand sensing tools can help organizations like Popeyes better track and account for spikes in demand as the result of viral social media. Using artificial intelligence and machine learning, these tools can mine massive amounts of online data to determine social sentiment and model its impact on demand. Used alongside statistical forecasts, POS data, and other inputs, demand sensing can help fine-tune planning and forecasting by tracking customer sentiment in real time as it unfolds.

Scenario Planning

The internet breaking chicken war between Popeyes and its competitors is something that certainly could not have been fully anticipated.  It is, though, in every company’s best interest to plan for what it would do should a scenario like this would occur.  Supply-chain leaders should plan for a wide range of scenarios.  The more comprehensive an company’s collection of plans, the more versatile it can be when responding to the unexpected. To drive competitive advantages, companies need to collaborate with suppliers to develop a responsive replenishment system. This means suppliers need to be kept updated with trends that have the potential to turn the supply chain on its head.

Supplier Relationship Management

Battles, like the chicken war, are won or lost on the strength of the company’s supplier relationships.  While it seems hard to believe that Popeyes could run out of chicken sandwiches, it wasn’t the lack of chicken that was the issue, it was the components of the sandwich, which included a custom cut of chicken, special type of flour, and a barrel-cured pickle that take time to source from suppliers.

Conclusion

More than a month after Popeyes completely sold out of its famed chicken sandwiches, they are finally back.  Just a short while after its return, though, customers began tweeting that they were sold out again at some locations.  This is not the first time social media upended supply chains, and while it remains to be seen who will be in the spotlight next, one thing for sure is that social media outbursts will always happen.  It is in every company’s best interest to be ready or risk losing the battle to competitors.

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About Vanguard Software Vanguard Software introduced its first product for decision support analysis in 1995. Today, companies across every major industry and more than 60 countries rely on the Vanguard Predictive Planning platform. Vanguard Software is based in Cary, North Carolina.
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