Forget toilet paper, lettuce is suddenly the latest hot commodity

restaurant line cook builds sandwich

With the cost of a simple head of lettuce spiking, restaurants are scrambling to remove or replace the leafy greens in their menus.

“The price of romaine has increased significantly over the past few weeks,” Green Rebel owner Ian O’Meara told OBJ. “The price of produce always fluctuates, so for most part we simply absorb the fluctuations.

“While all lettuce has increased in price, the price of romaine in particular has gone wild,” O’Meara added. “A couple months ago, we could purchase romaine for $40 a case. Currently, I’m seeing suppliers pricing it at over $170 a case if they can even get it.”

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Green Rebel’s menu offers six salad boxes – four of which include romaine lettuce – and four sandwiches involving lettuce.

“We are currently holding our menu prices as is, in hopes that the price of romaine will come down in the near future,” said O’Meara. “It’s difficult to make short-term adjustments in our pricing.”

If prices have not lowered by December, O’Meara said, Green Rebel will have to raise menu prices or “rework the menu to incorporate different varieties of greens.”

“That particular area has had crops decimated. So there’s a massive shortage,” said Higginson.

From fast-food joints to fine dining establishments, “everybody’s just pulling lettuce off the menu,” she said.

Not only is lettuce in short supply, but the available product has in some cases quadrupled in price, Higginson said.

“There’s no room for these restaurants to absorb more costs … and somebody is only going to pay so much for a salad. So once the price gets to a certain point, they’re just gonna have to take it off the menu,” said Higginson.

Fast-food chain Subway said lettuce is temporarily unavailable at some of its restaurants but anticipates supply will improve in late November.

In a tweet last week, Swiss Chalet’s Canadian division said, due to the industry-wide shortage, its garden and Caesar salads are not available and items that normally contain lettuce, like burgers, will come without lettuce for the time being.

Wholesale produce distributors say demand is exceeding supply of iceberg and romaine lettuce and pricing pressures are expected to continue throughout the month.

Higginson said events like this have become more common in the past few years, leading some restaurateurs to offer smaller menus or to use seasonal produce to avoid the impacts of supply inconsistencies.

She said if a large number of restaurateurs pivot to other greens like spinach or kale, prices of those products could also rise.

– With additional reporting from the Canadian Press

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