High price for lettuce keeps salad off the table at some N.B. restaurants

Many restaurants across the province have had to take salads off their menus for the time being due to the hike in the price of lettuce.  (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images - image credit)
Many restaurants across the province have had to take salads off their menus for the time being due to the hike in the price of lettuce. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images - image credit)

Restaurants across New Brunswick are grappling with the high price of lettuce, with some saying the bulk price has more than doubled since their last order.

This has led to many restaurants across the province taking salad off their menus for now.

The Palate in Fredericton is one of those restaurants. Owner Ken Roberts said it has stopped serving caesar salad because of the price hike and has switched the kind of lettuce staff use in club sandwiches.

The last case of romaine lettuce that Roberts got was accidentally opened so he couldn't send it back. He said it had 36 romaine hearts and cost more than $160. The cost used to be around $43 for that number of hearts, said Roberts.

He said the restaurant switched to a "heartier, wintery" salad, and customers haven't been too bothered by the loss of the caesar.

Price of everything going up

Roberts said prices of ingredients across the board have gone up this year, which has meant menu prices have been increased three times.

"Our margin is getting smaller and it is what it is," said Roberts. "It's a fine line you [have] to walk … everything's gone up."

Pierre Gosselin, owner of Catch 22 Lobster Bar in Moncton, said price fluctuations for various products have been common this year.

"Some days it'll be a chicken product, and other days, it'll be something else," he said.

Darrell Roberts/CBC
Darrell Roberts/CBC

Gosselin said he noticed the increase in lettuce prices, but doesn't think it is affecting him in the same way that it would impact big chains who need to order lettuce in bulk.

Gosselin said he stopped getting lettuce in bulk and instead went to the grocery store to pick some up, since his restaurant doesn't use that much.

He said since the grocery price of lettuce is also going up, his restaurant will probably stop serving salads until it drops again once they run out. Right now, he's "going with the flow."

'Rolling with the punches' 

Jessa Allison, manager of The Squeeze, a salad and smoothie shop that is new to downtown Fredericton, said her supplier warned them that the cost of lettuce would be going up.

In less than two weeks, Allison said a case of lettuce has gone from around $80 to $160.

"We're very much trying to roll with the punches as a new business, you know, we want to make sure that our customers are getting the product that they're looking for when they come to see us," she said.

But Allison said she has switched to a "winterized" menu. Some of the lettuce that was being used has been swapped in favour of a grain bowl.

She said the rising price of lettuce isn't a new trend. In the winter, Allison said it is bound to go up since it can't be grown locally. Still, she said, this year the jump was much higher than previous years.

Despite being a salad bar in the midst of a lettuce cost soar, Allison said the restaurant won't be raising the price of their products as of now, even though it has been something she had to consider over the past six to 12 months.

"At this time, [we have] no plans to pass that on to the customer," said Allison. "We're really just trying to make sure that we find a source that's going to work for us."