Since the fall, lettuce production issues (particularly concerning the romaine and iceberg varieties) have led to lettuce shortages across North America, mostly due to a disease that hit the Salinas Valley in California, where half of the lettuce eaten in the U.S. is produced. Now, lettuce shortages are affecting businesses in the restaurant industry of all sizes, including Olive Garden, a company executive said Friday.
In an earnings call Friday, Raj Vennam, CFO of Olive Garden's parent Darden Restaurants, said that shortages of the salad staple cost the company $4 million to $5 million in the second quarter.
The unlimited salad (and soup and breadsticks) chain is hardly the only restaurant struggling with this issue. Taco Bell and Chick-fil-A have recently let customers know about lettuce shortages. Small businesses, from local delis to Sweetgreen, are reportedly paying more for lettuce while also making changes to menu items based on availability.
According to Restaurant Business Online, the average price of a box of iceberg lettuce was $14 in October 2019. In October of this year, it cost $67 — an increase of some 379%.
One restaurant owner is certainly feeling the pinch. Donald Minerva of Scottadito Osteria Toscana in Brooklyn, New York, told Entrepreneur the price of a unit of lettuce, which typically contains a couple of romaine hearts, has gone up by 60% since last year.
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