Metro Detroit restaurants dealing with nationwide lettuce shortage, price spike

Growers say a plant virus has decimated lettuce fields in California
generic lettuce
Posted at 5:05 PM, Nov 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-10 17:55:10-05

MOUNT CLEMENS, Mich. (WXYZ) — A nationwide lettuce shortage has caused the price to soar. You may have noticed at the grocery store. Metro Detroit restaurants report feeling the pinch.

Growers say a plant virus known as impatiens necrotic spot virus has decimated lettuce fields on the West Coast.

7 Action News visited Sorrento’s Pizza in Mount Clemens where spinning pizza is second nature for owner Sam Marino. With 10 locations mostly across Macomb County, the family business has been making pizzas and sourcing ingredients for its salads and subs for about five decades.

“Since the whole pandemic wave, the food cost of everything in here has been so ridiculous. It doesn’t even make sense anymore," Marino said.

Now he’s trying to wrap his mind around the soaring cost of lettuce.

“The lettuce shortage... it has been brutal. It started about, I want to say, two weeks ago. I try to order a case of lettuce, they call me and say, 'It can’t come in. It can't come in,'" he said.

So, Marino said he called another supplier.

“They’re like, 'You can get this same case that you usually pay $23 for, but it’s going to cost you $107,'” Marino explained.

He showed 7 Action News the shelf in the walk-in cooler, which is practically empty.

“We raise the prices on a couple salads. A dollar here, two dollars there," he said. “We tried to adjust just a little bit where it wasn’t noticeable.”

He said the shop's increase in cost isn't enough to cover the increase in the cost of lettuce. Marino said Thursday’s shipment didn’t even come in, and prices at the grocery store are just as bad.

However, he’s hoping he won’t have to pass any more costs onto customers, that the shortage disappears in a week or two and the prices go back to what it was before.

“My worry is — since everyone’s buying it at $100 a case — when it does get back to normal, is it going to be now $80 a case?" Marino said.

He questioned, "Did it just change the average of now this is what we spend? Now it’s the new normal?”