Why some of summer’s favorite seafood dishes are so expensive

For many vacationers and residents along the northeast coast, summer is synonymous with lobster rolls, fried clams and other seafood delights that restaurants large and small specialize in. But this year, customers may be forced to pay a higher price for their drive-in crab legs. , crab cakes and more, as the restaurant industry faces a supply chain disruption due to several factors, including a severe labor shortage.

“The seafood industry is experiencing a backlog at U.S. ports along with a major labor shortage, transportation price hikes, and rising costs for seafood, packaging, and other supplies that complicate their operations,” Melaina Lewis, director of communications, National Fisheries Institute told TODAY Food via email, “All of this is contributing to higher prices and serious delays in the delivery of seafood. from bait to plate”.

While some restaurants have made the difficult decision to remove certain seafood from their summer menus rather than charge exorbitant prices for them, that’s not an option for Yen Lee, general manager of Bethesda Crab House in Bethesda. , Maryland, which needs the namesake of its restaurant to satisfy its loyal clientele.

“The crabs are available,” he told TODAY, explaining that his restaurant relies on getting crabs locally from Maryland but also from Louisiana, Texas and even Venezuela. “The problem is crabmeat. We can’t get people to harvest it at a reasonable price, so the cost is high.”

Lee explained that while there are crabs up for grabs, there just aren’t enough people to get the crab meat out of them. “You can’t pay them enough to do that,” he said.

He said transportation costs are also a factor in getting seafood to diners’ tables. Local crabmeat is now at a very high price, while crabmeat from the Gulf is “more reasonable”, Lee said.

At the start of the summer seafood season, Lee’s restaurant was forced to make a slight price increase. Other restaurants handled the shortages in a different way. He has seen nearby restaurants change their menus from crab cakes to shrimp cakes, which are more readily available. The substitutions are all due to a situation that has forced us to rethink our favorite summer seafood dishes.

“It makes sense, you can’t make cream of crab soup at the prices we’re seeing right now,” he said. “You would have to charge $10 a bowl versus $5 a bowl.”

Couple these struggles with the fact that diners, eager to get out and celebrate summer after a long year and a half indoors during the pandemic, are flocking to posh seafood restaurants and roadside shacks. and you have a situation fish recipe.

The key will be for customers to be patient and flexible with their orders.

Dino S. Williams