Gubernatorial mandates to shut down restaurants last year are taking their toll this year too. Government dictats to close down restaurants sent suppliers’ orders crashing. Those wholesalers and producers laid off workers, and now don’t have the talented pool of employees necessary to get the markets running again. Bloomberg reports:
Prices went “crazy,” says Mike Price, who co-owns the Greenwich Village restaurant, and so he yanked them off the menu. Over in Napa Valley, Phil Tessier, the executive chef at a popular spot called PRESS, did the same. And in Atlanta, at the tapas joint the Iberian Pig, chef Josue Pena didn’t stop at scallops. The Alaskan halibut and blue crab are gone, too.
That last one was a killer, Pena says. Crab croquettes had become a signature dish. “People were like ‘what’s up?’” But, he says, with wholesale costs soaring like they are, “the price we had to charge to be profitable was almost insulting.”
For restaurants across the U.S., the re-opening from Covid lockdown has been anything but easy. They’ve struggled to hire back enough waiters and chefs, often being forced to dangle double-digit pay hikes, and have been rocked by cost increases and shortages on all kinds of items — from condiment packets to takeout packaging and chicken wings. So this jump in seafood prices, part of the broader inflationary surge working its way through the U.S. economy, is only further squeezing restaurateurs just when they were supposed to be raking in cash as they recover from all those months lost to the pandemic.
Seafood prices rose about 11% in the 12 months through early July from the previous period, according to NielsenIQ. Stretch out the time horizon a little, Pena says, and the increases on certain hard-to-find products are much starker yet. A pound of halibut, he says, goes for $28 from the local seafood distributor he buys from in Atlanta. Before the pandemic, it was $16 at most. And blue crab has gone from $18 a pound to $44. But at least he can find crab. In Orlando, Brennan Heretick, co-owner of High Tide Harry’s, had to stop selling crab fingers because wholesalers in the region stopped offering them.
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