Restaurants facing inflated product costs, shortages

By Michelle Price
UCBJ Managing Editor

COOKEVILLE – Diners should be prepared to be flexible when heading out to their favorite restaurant or bar and to have a second option in case their favorite drink or meal isn’t available. 

The effects of COVID are still being seen in the restaurant industry through inflationary costs and shortages of many commonly used items. Menu prices at several local eateries have been raised, and many liquors and wines aren’t always available.

The wholesale price of popular proteins has risen greatly since January. For some restaurants, choice beef has gone up 80%, while chicken has gone up 65%. 

Fish is not immune to the price jump with the price of items like Mahi soaring 71%. Salmon has experienced the smallest increase of the proteins surveyed but has still climbed by 18%.

Kristen Moser, Chef at Seven Senses Food & Cheer

“We are having to work with the price changes, but we are also having to work to protect our brand and our image at the same time,” explained Seven Senses Chef Kristen Moser. 

For several weeks now, whole okra – a popular side item and a staple on Seven Senses Caesar salads – was not available except as sliced. Moser had to decide whether to try a substitute or to just go without the item all together. 

“It’s a balancing act. Do we leave it off or let it go?” she said. 

What she chose to substitute in lieu of the okra was a fried green tomato, another popular menu item.

Moser added that decisions on menu item substitutions are not taken lightly.

“It’s important for our brand. We are known for our food, and we are known for our consistency,” said Moser.

Many other items that people take for granted have been difficult to get recently. 

Steak sauce and ketchup have been unavailable in certain quantity containers. Some seasonings such as cumin, course ground red pepper and mojito lime seasoning have been almost impossible to get. There was even a three-week wait to receive whole grain mustard.

There have been difficulties for restaurants to get foil sheets, to-go containers and even plastic bags to package to-go orders in. 

A diner’s favorite beverage may be scarce too. Several restaurants have reported difficulties in receiving orders of wines, liquors and even sweet and sour mix. 

According to Jay Albrecht, owner of Seven Senses, some alcohol is available in certain size containers such as 750 milliliter bottles but not in the 1 liter bottles that many bars prefer. 

He attributed some of these supply difficulties to issues in the availability of glass bottles for alcohol manufacturers (distillers) to package their product in. 

Just this week, Albrecht’s order for Bacardi rum and Malibu rum was left unfilled because of supply issues from the wholesaler.

“Trust me, it’s just as frustrating on our end of things as it is for our guests,” said Albrecht. “We hope everyone will be patient and understand that we’re doing our best to adapt with the changes while still delivering a high-quality service to our guests.”

Jay Albrecht, owner of Seven Senses Food & Cheer discusses how supply issues are affecting local bars and restaurants.

Michelle Price is the managing editor of the Upper Cumberland Business Journal and can be reached via email. Send an email.

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