Taco Bell, Chick-Fil-a, Subway, and Panera Facing a Lettuce Shortage
- Taco Bell and Chick-fil-A are both displaying warnings in their apps about potential lettuce shortages.
- Panera also confirmed an industrywide shortage that it is working to minimize.
- Diseases in the major lettuce-growing region of the US reduced this year’s crop and drove up prices.
Fast-food chains are facing a lettuce shortage and inflated prices, and customers are starting to feel the impact.
Taco Bell’s mobile app displays a banner that says “National Lettuce Shortage” in bold lettering, warning customers that “Due to an industry shortage, we may be out of this ingredient at your local restaurant.”
The message was posted out of “an abundance of caution,” a Taco Bell spokesperson told Insider. As of November 10, restaurants are receiving scheduled lettuce shipments, the company said.
Chick-fil-A has a similar message for customers under the headline “Lettuce Supply Chain Challenges,” saying that “some menu items may be unavailable or prepared differently.”
A Panera spokesperson said that the chain is “remaining flexible” with recipes and working with suppliers to meet its lettuce needs. Meantime, Subway said lettuce might be “temporarily unavailable” at its restaurants.
Chipotle is not currently having lettuce supply issues, the company said.
The shortages are part of a larger problem across the industry. Both romaine and iceberg lettuce are in short supply, and prices are high when restaurants can buy the vegetables. The average price of a box of iceberg lettuce was $67 at the end of October, compared with $14 during the same period in 2019, Restaurant Business Online reported, a nearly 400% price increase over three years.
High lettuce prices are the result of a diminished supply that can’t meet the large demand. Earlier in the pandemic, lockdowns and other measures changed demands on the food supply, and some farmers reorganized farmland to use less space for lettuce, leading to less overall product.
Then, diseases hit the remaining lettuce stock in California’s Salinas Valley, which grows about 70% of US lettuce. The impatiens necrotic spot virus (INSV) is spread by insects, and caused massive damage to this year’s crop, AgAlert reported. Some growers are reportedly seeing yield losses as high as 80%.
Experts expect the shortage to become less severe later in November and December, or possibly as late as January, as lettuce from southern California and Arizona, which has been less impacted by disease, becomes available.
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