Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

OKC Restaurants Struggling to Deal with Spike in Tomato Prices

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

OKC Restaurants Struggling to Deal with Spike in Tomato Prices

Article excerpt

Want tomato with that? Restaurants throughout the metro area are reeling from a huge spike in tomato prices caused by Florida hurricanes and California rains. Most are swallowing the extra cost without changing recipes or menus, but others have been forced to limit or, in some cases, eliminate tomatoes from their offerings.

Florida produces about 50 percent of the nation's tomato crop, but four hurricanes so severely damaged the industry there that the state's output has been running at half its normal volume. Excessive rains in California and Mexico have also hurt tomato growers, further shortening supply.

National fast-food chain Wendy's is even warning customers on the front page of the company's Web site.

Recent hurricanes have severely impacted the quality and availability of tomatoes, it said. As a result, your Wendy's may have sporadic outages of tomatoes. We apologize and appreciate your understanding.

Italian restaurant chain Johnny Carino's, which operates four Oklahoma City restaurants and one in Tulsa, uses four cases of Roma tomatoes at each restaurant every day.

It's affecting us a huge amount, said Johnny Carino's Area Director Rodney Stephens. It's affecting us by about $2,500 per month at each store.

Tomatoes typically sell for $18-$22 per case, occasionally hitting the $25 mark. Within the past two weeks, a case of Roma tomatoes has soared to more than $50. Last week, the price dropped to $43.

We're going to pay the price because every time you walk in you should have the same food, Stephens said.

Stephens said the Roma tomatoes delivered recently were about the size of limes. Normally, Stephens said, they're about the size of bulk tomatoes.

We use a lot of tomatoes in our food and we have a certain taste profile we expect, Stephens said. We're not going to compromise by using bulk tomatoes. …

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