Auckland institution The White Lady is dangerously close to running out of burger buns and has turned to relying on supermarket stocks as it struggles with its usual supplier.
The iconic late-night burger joint’s operations manager Max Washer told the Herald he had faced inconsistent deliveries of bun orders for the past year but it had come to a head when the latest deliveries this week never arrived.
Washer turned to social media to ask for help finding another supplier and has been flooded by suggestions and offers - but when the business sells about 600 burgers a night he said it was hard to find another supplier who could fulfil such large orders.
“Obviously, we can’t sell a burger without a bun,” the company said online.
Washer said: “I’ve spoken to my sales representative [for the supplier] today and they are still confirming whether I’m even getting deliveries [on Thursday].
“Basically, one of biggest bakeries in the country, who we’ve been with for decades and have always been one of our best suppliers, their production issues - at least that’s what they’re telling us - are leaving us short on our orders,” he said.
“And the communications [with the supplier] is sort of non-existent. They can’t even tell me about future orders.
“We’re doing our best to remain open.”
Washer said he had received an offer from a small bakery and he was assessing the quality of their buns. He said keeping consistent menu offerings was important for customer satisfaction and expectation, with a risk to his business’ reputation.
“I do not want substandard additions. In the food business, consistency is everything. It doesn’t matter if you sell the tastiest, most amazing food in the world. The main thing that affects us is consistency.
“This [supply issue] is a real battle. It hurts a lot more than the frozen chip shortage or anything like that because burgers are a fast-moving product,” Washer said.
“No one can run a business by crossing their fingers and hoping something [supplies] may or may not turn up the next day. We will fight, we will find a way.”
Washer spent the day between different supermarkets trying to buy burger buns, most made by his usual supplier but at a higher cost and still not enough to make the expected number of burgers in a night.
He was also concerned his usual supplier wouldn’t be shipping stock over the busy Christmas period.
The Herald has contacted the supplier but has chosen not to name it until it provides any comment.
“We’re not a huge customer in the grand scheme of things, but I just want to say, we are a customer and as a small business owner we just want to be heard,” Washer said.
“I just want to keep selling burgers and looking after our customers.”
Raphael Franks is an Auckland-based reporter who covers breaking news. He joined the Herald as a Te Rito cadet in 2022.