Restaurants are scrambling to keep turkey on the menu for Thanksgiving 2022 – Orange County Register

Restaurants have had to struggle to ensure their customers get a traditional turkey dinner for Thanksgiving.

Avian flu outbreaks, coupled with inflation and supply chain problems, have complicated this holiday season.

“It’s going to be different for us,” Eric Stenta, vice president of operations for Polly’s Pies Restaurant & Bakery, said in a phone interview.

“The product will be great. I’m not worried about that. But for the people who have a very specific desire not to eat bones or dark meat, this will be an interesting dilemma for them because there won’t be enough of them. And I don’t think we’re the only ones in this boat.”

Avian flu has resulted in the loss of 7.4 million poults from the commercial market since March, according to the US Department of Agriculture. Turkey meat production will fall 5.6 percent, or 1.29 billion pounds, in the fourth quarter of 2022, a department report estimates.

Suppliers have increased production to meet holiday demand, although the birds will be smaller and there will be fewer toms and more chickens, the agency said.

Buyers don’t have to worry about the turkey supply, according to the National Turkey Federation, but it advises them to secure their birds as soon as possible.

“The turkey suppliers retail all of their eggs,” Stenta said. “They’re really saving for the grocery stores because places like Safeway, Kroger, they have $100 million contracts with these poultry farmers. I think buyers will feel the price.”

He said producers’ priority had been to get whole birds to market, reducing the supply of items like turkey breast. The retail price of boneless, skinless turkey breast hit a record high of $6.70 a pound in September, according to a press release from the American Farm Bureau Federation. In September 2021, the price was $3.16 per pound.

The heat and serve option

To cope with the shortage, Polly’s Pies took the turkey dinner off the menu during the summer when demand slacked. The chain kept a cold turkey sandwich on the menu, but Stenta said getting the meat from its supplier was a no-brainer.

For Thanksgiving, Polly’s focuses on selling pre-ordered family feasts to be reheated and served with whole roast turkeys. The feast meals serve six people and include mashed potatoes with red skin, sweet potatoes, green beans, stuffing, cranberries, buns and cakes. Choices include Apple, Pumpkin, and Pumpkin Maple Crunch.

According to a press release, Polly’s staff will be assembling the feasts for pickup during the chain’s 72-hour cake-baking marathon, during which it produces enough cakes to fill more than 55,000 orders.

According to the stenta, all cakes pre-ordered for collection are baked the evening before.

“Basically, our ovens run 24 hours a day from Monday evening to Wednesday morning at 5 a.m..”

Polly’s is closing its dining room on Thanksgiving to focus on take-out service. Other chain restaurants will be open over the holidays, serving special dine-in menus and take-away celebratory meals.

Polly’s Thanksgiving feasts cost $189.99 and will feed six or more people, according to the chain’s website. Other chains’ turkey feasts range in price from $130 to $200. They vary in side dishes, but most have potatoes and buns. Many do not include dessert.

The power of tradition

Prices posted on the chains’ website have increased from a few dollars to around $40 as of 2021.

“Look at everything. The prices are rising. In Turkey, the law of supply and demand comes into play with limited supply,” said Jim Cannon, Chief Operating Officer of Urban Plates.

“I knew about it last year when I went into this year. We secured our turkeys early and that’s a good thing,” he said in a phone interview. Restaurants are scrambling to keep turkey on the menu for Thanksgiving 2022 – Orange County Register

Adam Bradshaw

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