Article courtesy of Bloomberg via “The Rundown”
Local ingredients are trendy among upscale restaurants. Now, with surging shipping costs, sandwich and salad shops are following along.
A labor crunch in the trucking industry is making it more expensive to deliver everything from apples to zucchini.
U.S. shipping rates jumped 14 percent in the year ended June 30, sending truck use to nearly 100 percent capacity, according to Freight Transportation Research Associates.
Restaurants are facing higher prices, and to avoid passing them along to customers, they’re shopping closer to home.
“We’ve been trying to figure out how do you get more stuff locally,” said Nick Marsh, chief executive officer of Chopt Creative Salad Co., a chain with more than 50 outlets, mostly on the East Coast. “It for sure becomes even more economically beneficial.”
Marsh said Chopt’s shipping costs jumped 20 percent versus last year. He blamed the spike on the driver shortage and new electronic monitoring that tracks truckers’ hours put in place by the Department of Transportation in December.
Chopt already gets more than 50 percent of its food from local vendors during summer. It recently started buying more baby kale, spinach and arugula from Florida instead of California, and is looking into greens grown indoors in New York, Marsh said.
Restaurants have been touting the merits of local goods for years.
Chefs that use food from nearby say it tastes and looks better due to shorter shipping times, and they like to tell diners they support local farmers. And fewer hours on the road means less gas – good for the environment, too.