With rising prices for salmon, shrimp, and crab, many seafood restaurants are still struggling to stay afloat. Coupled with the fallout that remains from last year’s massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the forecast for seafood eateries is uncertain at best. While many other restaurants starting to regain their footing, the seafood category has yet to benefit from an economy that’s just beginning to recover.
Shrimp price increases have hit restaurants especially hard—up about 25 percent over last year. Some of that increase can be blamed on the weakened U.S. dollar, because so much of the shrimp has to be imported now due to limited supplies in the wake of the oil spill.
Still, the biggest ramification of the spill is its effect on consumer perception. In a nationwide poll released last month by the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board, 70 percent of consumers surveyed said they still feel concerned about the safety of Gulf seafood. Government agencies have declared it to be safe, but people remain skeptical.
The struggling economy has already led to many restaurants being shuttered, including Straub’s in Orlando, most of the Shells chain, and The Surf Bar & Grill in Cocoa Beach, Fla., according to a story by Sandra Pedicini of the Orlando Sentinel.
As reported by market research firm Technomic last month, “the seafood category…has been in contraction mode, losing sales and shedding units.”
One company that’s bucking the trend is Ruby Tuesday, which has announced plans to start a chain of seafood restaurants, beginning with a first unit in Maryville, Tenn. Let’s hope the folks at Ruby Tuesday have discovered a reason to be optimistic beyond the weakened competition in the seafood restaurant category.
The Food Channel is bringing you recaps of some of the best stories from around the Web that will help us all learn more about the true situation in the Gulf. Stay with us as the story unfolds and let’s see what the future of food may look like in the wake of crisis.