Dec 23, 2021
French fry shortage hits some restaurants in latest supply snag
Decreased competition and supply chain crunch will cause food prices to raise by 7% in 2022: Sylvain Charlebois
The message posted to Instagram late Tuesday by J.G. Melon, a revered New York City burger joint, surely came as a shock to its many fans.
“The rumors are true,” the almost 50-year-old restaurant said in a solemn statement addressed to the J.G. Melon Community. “Due to a supply-chain issue, we are temporarily not serving our legendary cottage fries.”
French fries, arguably the most essential menu item for a burger restaurant outside of beef, are at risk of becoming the latest victim of a strained food supply chain that has already led to shortages of cream cheese to chicken tenders to to-go packaging. J.G. Melon owner Jaine O’Neill told Bloomberg the restaurant was surprised when its long-time potato supplier, Lamb Weston, discontinued the signature product.
“I asked them if they could do a private label for us. We order a lot -- 70 cases a week, and there are 180 pounds of potatoes in a case -- but they replied that we would need to order a million pounds of potatoes per year,” she said. That would mean about 50 per cent more potatoes.
Within hours of posting on Instagram, offers were pouring in from followers hoping to help find alternative sources. “In the meantime we’re trying different types of fries,” she said.
Lamb Weston didn’t respond to requests for comment.
So far, the fry issues appear limited. McDonald’s has temporarily restricted sales in Japan due to challenges importing potatoes from North America. Shake Shack has heard rumblings of a shortage but hasn’t been affected.
“We’ve worked very hard on our supply chains to build redundancy and are constantly checking every angle to prepare in advance,” Jay Livingston, Shake Shack’s chief marketing officer, told Bloomberg. The fast casual chain is actually giving away fries away for free at JFK airport this week to airline passengers whose Christmas travels have been delayed or canceled.
“We source our fries from multiple suppliers across the United States and have enough inventory to get through the holidays,” he said. “But because everything we do is fresh, I can’t speak to what might happen weeks from now.”