The price of lobster rolls could leave some seafood lovers shell-shocked.
The summer sandwich is back in season — and the price tag is higher than previous years as a result of supply chain issues and increased demand driving up food costs in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, restaurant owners say.
"It’s a possibility you'll start seeing $40 lobster rolls everywhere," Vinny Lombardi, the director of operations at Summer Shack Restaurants with locations in Boston, Cambridge and Connecticut, told FOX Business.
Lombardi said the price of lobster per pound from his Maine suppliers is typically $22, but now it’s nearly at $40 per pound. He typically charges $26 for a lobster roll at his restaurants but had to raise the price on menus up to $32 this month. He hasn’t received any complaints from customers yet, but suspects he may when he bumps up the price to $35 by the end of the week.
"I’m afraid once we get to that $35 range I'll start getting a few emails or comments, but the price hasn’t gone down," Lombardi said, adding that the cost of live lobsters has doubled from $6 to $12 this year compared to 2020.
Customers order lobster rolls around 80% of the time in the summer months at Summer Shack, Lombardi said, and to keep customers happy they’ve started promoting other more affordable seafood menu items through promotions like $1 oysters.
The average price of lobster at grocery stores during May 2021 across the country increased 9.3% from $8.53 during the same time period last year, according to the latest data from NielsenIQ. It’s the latest in a number of price increases across the food industry, with the cost of fresh chicken and beef also up.
At Stew Leonard’s, a supermarket chain in Connecticut, New York and New Jersey, the price of lobster rolls went from $8.99 to $10.99 this week.
"We’re going to absorb as many price increases as we can. We don’t want to shock the customer," Stew Leonard, owner of family-owned chain said, adding that they typically sell 2,000 lobster rolls per week.
Lobster prices have always fluctuated depending on the weather, water temperature and other elements, according to Marianne LaCroix, the executive director of the Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative.
"Right now, it's not yet peak season for Maine Lobster so there aren't as many boats on the water," LaCroix said. "That will change as the summer goes on, and we're looking forward to another strong season."