Lettuce shortage hits Toronto restaurants

“Attention: Due to a shortage of lettuce. There is no lettuce on our sandwiches today.”

That’s the sign customers found when they went for a bite to eat at the old SanRemo Bakery in Etobicoke on Thursday.

The restaurant is one of many in Toronto that simply don’t have lettuce or are removing it from their menus due to tight supplies and high prices for leafy greens.

“If we don’t get the ingredients, it’s difficult. You know, you have to cut back on products…it’s really a balancing game right now that we’re playing,” Robert Bozzo, owner of SanRemo Bakery, told CP24 on Thursday.

Fast-food chain Subway also said lettuce is temporarily unavailable at some of its restaurants, and Swiss Chalet’s Canadian division said its garden and Caesar salads are currently unavailable.

The lettuce shortage is reportedly due to a supply problem in California.

Restaurants Canada chief operating officer Kelly Higginson told the Canadian Press that a major lettuce-growing area in the sunny state was struck by a virus and its crops were “decimated.”

Dr. Sylvain Charlebois, senior director of the Dalhousie Food Analysis Laboratory, said the supply chain issue has caused lettuce prices to soar 30% year-over-year in Canada.

“I think a lot of people are realizing that lettuce is a problem right now where we ran out of it because California really couldn’t produce as much as it should at this time of year. But those situations are temporary. We look forward to a very fruitful December as we approach the holidays,” he told CP24 on Wednesday.

Bozzo has seen the price of leafy greens rise in recent weeks, paying $125 to $140 for a box of romaine lettuce.

Romaine lettuce

Despite the lettuce shortage, Buzzo said his bakery can’t keep paying the high costs of the greens.

“We want to be cautious with what we have to incur and pass things on to our customers. Our customer base is very low income to high income and for us we want to be able to serve everyone,” he said.

Bozzo added that the bakery does not plan to increase the prices of its sandwiches when the lettuce is back in stock.

The lettuce shortage comes as Canadians are spending record amounts on groceries this year due to soaring inflation.

According to Statistics Canada, the annual increase in grocery store prices peaked at 11.4% in September, the biggest jump since 1981. This figure remained high in October at 11%.

However, food prices increased less in October (10.1%) compared to September (10.3%) year-over-year.

grocery store

The product with the highest year-on-year price increase in October was margarine with 40.4%, followed by pasta products with 27.4%.

Other food items that saw a price increase from September to October include butter, dairy products and eggs.

Boozo has noticed the increase in prices for these regular staples that he needs at his bakery.

“It has been crazy, like flour, butter, oil. We are a home bakery and we use all the raw materials we can”.

Charlebois said the growth in grocery prices is largely related to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and supply chain problems.

“It’s a commodity story. When you look at livestock like eggs and dairy, feeding the animals on the farm costs more, energy costs drive up prices as well,” she said.

“Delays waste all these things that consumers don’t really see when they go to a grocery store and it’s happening and it’s costing money to processors, retailers, everybody really, and at the end of the day, consumers have to pay for it, added.

There is light at the end of the tunnel, according to Charlebois.

He said the Canadian dollar will help lower food costs in the coming weeks.

“It’s about 75 cents against the dollar. That will help importers as we head into winter. We are going to import more food, that will help us. So we’re expecting an easier winter compared to what we’ve seen in recent months,” she said.

Until then, Bozzo said his bakery is trying to make ends meet as best it can.

“As busy as we are, we’re still in survival mode and we’re still trying to survive and get through this rut ​​because you can feel something coming. It’s just that you feel it creeping in.”

-With archives from The Canadian Press

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