Bars and restaurants face supply chain and inflationary challenges as they ready for one of their busiest days of the year: Super Bowl Sunday.
That includes higher prices for chicken wings, a staple for football fans, and grouper, a Florida favorite.
Local bars and eateries grapple with higher prices for wings, seafood (including grouper) and other items as well as continued supply chain snafus and shortages impacting food products such as cream cheese as well as some brands and types of alcohol.
The price of chicken wings has increased and is expected to go higher for the big game between the Los Angeles Rams and Cincinnati Bengals.
Kim Fowler, owner of the Twisted Tiki restaurant and bar on Corey Avenue in St. Pete Beach, said a case of chicken wings cost approximately $55 in December 2020.
Now, the same case — which encompasses 25 to 28 orders – costs $166.
“It’s triple the cost,” said Fowler who does significant business during football games.
Fowler said the cost of fry oil has also increased adding to the bottom-line pressures.
The St. Pete Beach Tiki bar currently sells wings at “market price” on its menu. Fowler said that translates to $15 for an order of 12.
“I’m basically breaking even,” she said.
Fowler’s not alone among restaurant and bar owners across Tampa Bay – and the country – in listing “market price” for chicken wings, a phrase usually reserved for high-demand seafood items such as grouper, crabs, and lobster.
Joe Guenther, co-owner of O’Maddy’s Bar and Grille in Gulfport, said wholesale prices of chicken wings have gone from $2 per pound to $4 per pound.
“The price is double,” he said.
Guenther said he’s not seeing shortages of wings, but prices are up – and increasing – as Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 13) approaches.
“Every year for the Super Bowl the price goes up. I swear they use that as an excuse,” Guenther said.
O’Maddy’s still has a fixed price on its menu for wings — $12.99 for 10 — but will look at changing that after the big football game.
Guenther said changing prices would require changing menus, which means added printing costs.
“It’s very expensive to change my menu,” Guenther said.
He is also seeing increased prices for prime rib as well as seafood — including lobster, crab, and grouper.
Guenther said the market price for grouper has recently gone as high as $28 per entree. A grouper sandwich at the popular Gulfport restaurant was running $24.99 on Jan. 31. The grouper entree was listed for $26.99.
“It’s crazy. Grouper is way up,” said Guenther.
He’s also seen price hikes for lobster and prime rib, and supply challenges for other items.
“Crab meat is really tough to get,” Guenther said.
The price of wings is also up at local grocery stores, costing as much as $6 per pound.
Bars and restaurants were hurt early in the coronavirus pandemic by shutdowns, social distancing rules, and job cuts. Now, they face strong inflationary winds and challenges in hiring and retaining workers.
The U.S. inflation rate was 7% in 2021, according the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index. That’s the biggest increase in prices since 1982.
Food prices in particular have risen, stressing consumers at grocery stores as well as restaurants and bars. Supply chain problems persist with food as well as liquor and imported beer, from grocery stores to restaurant stock rooms, in part due to truck driver and port worker shortages; in part due to COVID-19-related shutdowns of Chinese ports.
Fowler said she’s had challenges in getting in cream cheese as well as some liquors.
In St. Petersburg, Kelli Erskine, bartender at McArthur’s Irish Pub, said the restaurant has faced challenges in getting sausages for its bangers and mash dish.
“We’ve been out of bangers. That’s really sad,” she said.
As for wings, the prices have increased, with a half-dozen costing $8.99, a dozen $15.99 and 18 wings priced at $24.99, according to Erskine.
Nevertheless, the pub will still have an all-you-can-eat buffet on Super Bowl Sunday – for $60.