Tomato Prices Affect Local Restaurants - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

12/14/04

Tomato Prices Affect Local Restaurants

Is there something missing from your salad or sandwich? The cost of tomatoes has been so high, at one point some local restaurants actually stopped providing them.

No one felt the pinch of the high price of tomatoes more than restaurants. They had to pay triple what they were paying, so some just stopped serving them.

Many of us couldn't imagine having a sandwich without the onions, lettuce and tomatoes. Or what about a nice healthy salad?

"It's ridiculous," said  Kyle Feilmeir, a manager at Larry's Giant Subs.

But many restaurants had to do just that, serve every meal minus the tomatoes. "We had to do it," said Feilmeir. "Bite our knuckles. We had to do it."

Larry's Giant Subs actually had to put signs up telling customers they would not be serving tomatoes for a few weeks. "They said, 'This is a sub shop, y'all should have tomatoes.' We were like, 'There's nothing we can do about it until prices go down.'"

Prices that have skyrocketed. "They jumped from $5 dollars a case to $35 a case," said Feilmeir.

Valerie Brown has been working at Shoney's for more than 20 years, and she says to stop serving tomatoes wasn't an option. "We feel, if we want to keep our customers, we have to do whatever we can."

Until they had no choice and did business without the popular fruit for more than a week. Brown said it's frustrating "when you have to tell the customers you don't have it."

Fortunately for these businesses, prices are starting to come down, but for many, not fast enough. "Currently we bought a case for $31, and soon it will go down to 25," said Feilmeir.

Many restaurant owners know the reason for the high prices is the hurricanes that slammed Florida and the recent bad weather in California, but now they're just hoping Mother Nature makes way for a fresh, new crop of ripe tomatoes.

We called a few produce shops. The average price for a pound of tomatoes starting just yesterday was $1.79. In the last few weeks the price has been well over $2, so prices are very slowly going down.

Reported by: Hena Daniels, hdaniels@wtoc.com

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