Lettuce prices spike amid shortage, some restaurants pull greens off menus

Lettuce prices have soared due to a shortage of lettuce, causing some restaurants to temporarily stop serving the leafy green on their menus.

Wholesale product distributors said iceberg and romaine lettuce was in short supply and expected price pressure to continue throughout the month.

A major lettuce growing area in California was hit by a virus and a year later, the area is already struggling due to heat and drought, said Kelly Higginson, chief operating officer of Restaurants Canada.

“Crops in that particular area have been reduced a lot. So there’s a major shortage,” Higginson said.

From fast food restaurants to fine dining restaurants, “everyone is just taking lettuce off the menu,” she said.

That’s because not only is the lettuce in short supply, but in some cases the price of the available product has quadrupled, she said.

“These restaurants don’t have room for more cost … and there’s only so much someone will pay for a salad. So once the price hits a certain point, they’re going to have to take it off the menu,” says Higginson Say.

Fast-food chain Subway said some of its restaurants were temporarily unable to serve lettuce and expected supplies to improve in late November.

In a tweet last week, the Canadian arm of Swiss Chalet said its garden salad and Caesar salad would not be available due to shortages across the industry, while items that typically contain lettuce, such as burgers, will be temporarily free of lettuce.

Such incidents have become more common over the past few years, leading some restaurateurs to offer smaller menus or use seasonal products to try to avoid the impact of inconsistent supply, Higginson said.

If a large number of restaurant owners turn to other greens like spinach or kale, the prices of those products could also rise, she said.

Rosa Saba, Canadian Press

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