No matter how you pronounce it, tomatoes became difficult to produce this year due to a harsher-than-normal winter and, as a result, there’s been a spike in tomato prices.
And Ridgefield restaurants are feeling it.
“What used to cost $12-16 per pallet jumped to nearly $52 about a month ago,” said Little Pub General Manager Lars Anderson. “It’s four times what we’re used to paying.”
The problem is the result of a recent crop freeze in Mexico that's crippling the supply of not just tomatoes but other produce like cucumbers, bell peppers and lettuce.
So when one of your signature items is a hamburger – and the typically accompanying lettuce and tomato – you feel the pinch.
“Our family dinner prices are where we want them to be and we don’t want to get away from that value proposition,” Anderson said.
The Little Pub has been one of the hottest places in Ridgefield since it opened last year. Its relaxed, casual atmosphere and great food at good prices has made it jam-packed seemingly since the moment it opened its doors.
“We tried charging for lettuce and tomato on a burger and that just didn’t feel right to us or the customers,” Anderson continued. “We tried leaving them off, but the burgers seemed nude. If we raise the cost it wrecks our value proposition. Now we’re just eating the additional cost.”
The same is true at Ridgefield’s Fifty Coins. Its extensive menu has made it a popular destination for local families, and the burgers remain one of the most popular items on the menu, served with requisite lettuce and tomato of course.
“You suck it up,” said owner Larry Debany. “We try to keep things the way our customer expects them, so we won't even think of passing on the cost."
It’s not the first time Debany has seen a situation like this.
“It was the same thing with pizzas when the cost of flour spiked," he said. "A lot of places raised their prices but then kept the higher price once the flour prices went back down. We don’t want to do that.”
After reaching its peak at $52, prices are starting to settle back down, though they are still currently running two times the cost of what they were before the freeze.
Both The Little Pub and Fifty Coins say they will hold the line on prices and hope the produce spike is a short one – and that’s good news for Ridgefield families no matter how you slice it.