Despite home prices increasing, lower gas prices, and more jobs, consumers are still queasy about the economy, Nation’s Restaurant News reports. According to a recent NRA survey, 42% of those participating say the economy is fair, while 39% say it is poor. That should change as economic fundamentals continue to improve, the NRA says. But, the question is when will that actually happen. In the meantime, sage advice to the food service industry is to continue to focus on your customers, because at the end of the day, they define your economic success.
Higher Food Costs Demand Resourcefulness
The price of eggs, dairy products, and some meats are soaring. Over the past 5 years, for example, whole food prices are up 25%, the National Restaurant Association says. Big or small, restaurants need a new strategy to cope with increasing costs. Some have raised prices. Others have altered their menus, and still more now offer daily specials on lower-priced items. Because consumers react negatively to most of these measures, restauranteurs need to strike a balance. An increasing number of eateries now work with fewer vendors for better pricing. Others are substituting more expensive side dishes with less expensive vegetables. Still more are using local sources to help keep prices down.
Customers Ordering More Chicken And Pork
With the high price of beef it is no surprise that more people are ordering alternatives when they go out to eat, Bloomberg reports. Beef sales, in fact, are at a 40-year low as consumers are opting for less expensive chicken and pork dishes. While drought and a virus thinned out both cattle herds and piglets, the latter takes less time to rebound. Pork production is doing so well; it is on track to set a record high before the end of the year.
The National Restaurant Association recently scored a big victory for small- to mid-sized restaurants when Congress recently passed legislation allowing restaurants and other small businesses to buy health insurance on the more affordable large-group market. Without the new legislation, employers with 50 – 100 employees would have been pushed into small-group insurance plans that would cost much more to participate. The president is expected to sign the bill into law as a much-needed amendment to the Affordable Care Act.
Bunge North America, an operating arm of Bunge Limited, has acquired Whole Harvest Foods, a leading producer of commercial cooking oils. Among its products are pan sprays, liquid butter, and frying oils. The products are manufactured at its vegetable oil refinery and packaging facility in Warsaw, North Carolina, and its packaging plant in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Floods Affect South Carolina Crops
Historic flooding in South Carolina will reduce the state’s production of peanuts, soybeans, and sorghum by an estimated 20%, Southeast Farm Press is reporting. That is in addition to the 50% crop reduction already caused by the regional drought earlier in the growing season.
Trans-Pacific Trade Agreement
Major U.S. manufacturers such as Cargill and other agricultural companies are vocal in their support of the pending trade agreement the Obama administration now has before Congress, The Wall Street Journal reports. The deal would lower tariffs on a number of agricultural products and minimize export bans, which supporters say will expand U.S. business. Many others oppose the partnership deal based on what is known about the agreement. To date, the full text of the partnership has not been made public. Congress has 90 days to vote up or down on the measure.
This Will Bring Tears To Your Eyes
Love onions? If you happen to like the Idaho variety, be prepared to pay twice the amount you did last year, the Idaho Statesman reports. The reason is purely weather related. Idaho was in the grips of a severe heat wave right in the prime growing season for onions. That affected both quantity and size of onions this year.
Cattle Futures Continue To Drop
Steak lovers take heart. Because of the largest expansion in cattle in American history, record-high beef prices will soon be a thing of the past, Forbes reports. Prices are expected to fall as much as 50% as supply and demand increase over the next few years.
Rains Will Haunt Pumpkin Supply
Better get those pumpkins while you can. Illinois, which grows 85% of the nation’s favorite fall squash, suffered heavy rains during the growing season. That means crops are down as much as 50%, Huffingtonpost.com reports. By Thanksgiving, pumpkins might be as hard to find as an original pilgrim. "We have never seen growing and harvesting conditions like this,” said Paul Bakus, president of corporate affairs for the global food giant Nestle, at an event focused on climate change last week. “If you want a pumpkin, you better get it now."