With a few exceptions, food prices seem stable this holiday season

Full-service restaurant owners have a lot to be thankful for this year—the average holiday meal is expected to increase by only 3 cents (on average, per person) this year. Although the biggest price differences will likely be seen in restaurants that don't operate under pooled contracts, all restaurants will still see some unusual price spikes in three major holiday staples: potatoes, cranberries, and ham.

This “hold-steady” pricing is welcome news after last year’s drought caused havoc with everything from chicken wings to corn-on-the-cob.

Our team at Consolidated Concepts has gathered the following price points, highlighting the overall stability you can expect to see in the price of popular holiday ingredients and menu items.

The Expected Differences—or Lack Thereof—Between Last Year’s and This Year’s Holiday Menu Prices

Canned Pumpkin: +1%

Turkeys (Whole): -7%

Sweet Potatoes/Yams: +13%

Pie Crusts/Stuffing: VARIES

String Beans: +7%

Oysters: VARIES

Cheese Blocks: -15%

Candy Corn: -9%

Class I Milk: +2%

Milk production hit its peak in July, which is affecting cheese prices now. They're expected to continue to fall as supply becomes more abundant and demand for baking cheeses such as mozzarella and cheddar begins to peak. Exports have also decreased sharply.

Unusual or Significant Differences

  • Potatoes (White): +147%

The wholesale price of potatoes has increased substantially. The pace of harvesting in Idaho is much higher this year than last, making supply more readily available earlier in the season. This is driving markets downward, and prices are decreasing dramatically each week. Nevertheless, they are still more than double the 2012 levels due to upward speculation.

  • Cranberries: +25%

A surplus in Canada from the spring of 2013 has flooded the U.S. market, causing prices to plummet over the summer. Growers have responded by lowering their yields this year, thus driving prices back to normal. This can be dangerous in the long run, however, as high-efficiency growing infrastructures collapse. OceanSpray, the largest cranberry grower, has used its farming cooperative program to keep consumer prices stable, but is preparing to ramp up exports to Asia. This will likely inflate cranberry prices as the holiday season approaches.

  • Hams: +29%

Whole hams will likely increase per pound by 5 to 10 percent. Pork output in 2013 was nearly 9 percent lower than the summer of 2012, but demand for cured products has increased dramatically. This has led to a considerable increase in prices that may even pour into the packaged supermarket ham environment (which rarely sees any changes). Restaurants are experiencing a 20-cent-per-pound increase from last year.

  • Cooking Oil: -33%

Corn and palm oils have seen dramatic drops in price, as this last growing season was considerably more mild than 2012. Futures are showing continued deflation as more suppliers flood the market and drought conditions subside. Olive oil is also depreciating as more growers appear domestically in northern California, and as fast-casual restaurants begin to rely more on frying.

Even with the considerable increases in the price of potatoes, hams, and cranberries this season, overall the price-per-customer of a full Thanksgiving meal will increase by just a miniscule amount. It's good news for full-service restaurants as well as diners.

The opinions of contributors are their own. Publication of their writing does not imply endorsement by FSR magazine or Journalistic Inc.

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