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New worries on the cost front

If you’re planning a special this month of pumpkin ravioli with shaved truffles, we need to talk—especially if you expect customers to pay with a credit card. 

A weather-related drop in supply during a seasonal peak in demand is hiking the cost of what had traditionally been a bargain fall ingredient for restaurants, sugar pumpkins.

Meanwhile, problems in the oak fields of Italy have triggered a steep climb in the cost of a seasonal item that was already far from a bargain, imported truffles.

And if that was wreaking enough havoc on restaurant P&Ls, insurers are warning that payouts for cyber-security breaches are sending the price of credit-card insurance to altitudes seldom seen by anyone outside of NASA. Reuters reports that some businesses already victimized by hackers are struggling to find coverage at three times the usual cost.

Even restaurant operations that have remained secure are looking at increases averaging 32 percent, according to data from the consulting firm Marsh & McLennan.

Most small independents have presumably not purchased insurance of that type. But places at the higher end could see margins hit by soaring truffle prices, if they decide to use the prized fungus. The chef of Scarpetta in New York City told The New York Post that he’s paying $2,000 for a pound of the delicacy, or double the already-nosebleed-high price of previous years.

Less detrimental to the bottom line has been a decline in the supply of sugar pumpkins, the variety used in restaurant kitchens (as opposed to the thinner-walled varieties typically carved into jack o’ lanterns.) A rainy summer in the prime growing area of Illinois could trigger a shortage of pumpkin pies for the holiday season.

Others are laying blame on Starbucks shift to real pumpkin for its pumpkin spice latte, the chain’s (and one of the industry’s) most popular limited-time offer.

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