Aug. 4, 2015

Tap These 4 Tips to Counter Rising Egg Prices

by Mike Sula

The commodity poultry population has been decimated by the avian flu virus. Nearly 50 million chickens and turkeys have fallen victim to the virus or have been euthanized to slow its spread. That means operators are paying two or three times the price for whole and pasteurized liquid eggs, which have been subject to shortages and product recalls.

Here are four tips restaurateurs are working to manage costs and keep their guests coming back.

1.Grow Your Margins

When Megan Miller of Chicago’s Baker Miller could no longer get pasteurized liquid egg whites for her meringue, she had to resort to cracking them whole and manually separating them, leaving her an abundance of yolks. “We have to worry about waste,” says Miller. “If I’m using more egg whites than I am yolks, I have to redesign the menu to make sure everything is getting used. I am preparing more custardy foods that use straight egg yolks.” Miller also menued new, higher margin and higher volume items like tartines and cream puffs.

2. Bet on the Farm

Smaller chicken producers have been less affected by the virus. So building a good relationship with these farmers can pay benefits by keeping your prices stable. By locking in prices with a consistent supply, “we have been unaffected by the avian flu. We buy all of our eggs from this Amish collective,” says Chef Josh Stockton of Detroit’s Gold Cash Gold. “They’re off by themselves and haven’t raised their prices at all. They know how much we need every week and we know we’re top on their list.”

3.Substitute

Egg free substitutes are plentiful. Pennsylvania-based Rita’s recently replaced its frozen custard with an egg-free, butterfat-rich soft serve ice cream when it had trouble sourcing enough eggs to supply its 600 stores. “The majority of guests haven't noticed much of a difference,” says President and CEO Jeff Moody. “Our custard is a little bit thicker than the premium soft-serve ice cream, but the flavor and texture are very close. So far, we haven't seen an impact on sales.”

4.Ride it out

Some analysts predict it will take 18 months to re-establish egg laying flocks. In the meantime, no one wants to alienate guests by raising prices. “We basically have to eat that cost instead of passing it on to our customers,” says Dan Warren, executive chef at Americana in Des Moines, Iowa, the state hit hardest by the avian flu. “I don’t think our guests necessarily understand that it’s really a big deal yet so we have to just ride it out.”

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