Higher meat prices push restaurants to create more cost-effective plates

New cuts, buying strategies and menu ideas can help operators get the most bang for their meat buck.


By Patricia Cobe, Restaurant Business

Apr. 02, 2021


Ever since The Publick House reopened for indoor dining earlier this year, Executive Chef Nick DeRosa is paying 12% to 15% more for meat than he was pre-pandemic. “Sometimes, the wholesale price can skyrocket $5 in a week,” said DeRosa. Meat comprises about 45% of the menu at the Mountainside, N.J., gastropub, so high protein prices can seriously impact margins—especially when your dining room is at 50% capacity.


Although the beef and pork supply has almost bounced back after the packing plant closures of last spring, some of the cuts destined for restaurants “have to find their home again” as dining out resumes, said Will Sawyer, lead economist in animal protein at CoBank in Atlanta.


Additionally, feed costs are 25% to 30% higher, the export market is thriving and inflation is rising—a combination that pushes up wholesale meat prices for U.S. operators.


It’s predicted that in the second half of 2021, cattle herds will see some contraction and pig farmers are finding pork exports to be more profitable. With the price picture not likely to improve through 2021, full-service restaurants have to find ways to maximize their meat dollars and improve margins.


DeRosa has several strategies...