DECATUR – A deep fryer is one of the essential appliances in most restaurants.
However, many owners find it increasingly worrying to use this important piece of equipment.
Along with a shortage of workers and supplies, the price of cooking oil has skyrocketed, forcing many restaurateurs to consider their options.
While its overall operating costs may be lower, Clint Brumleve, co-owner of the Tornado Food Truck parked on Illinois 48 in Decatur, faces the same difficulties as brick and mortar restaurants. Cooking oil prices have more than doubled since the start of the food truck season. âThey say it’s not supposed to come back down for at least a little while,â Brumleve said. “And no one knows what a little bit of time means.”
Dave Jordan, owner of The cart on North Woodford Street in Decatur, and its staff serve many popular dishes straight from the fryer, including mozzarella cheese sticks, beer-battered onion rings, cod, shrimp, and their ever-popular fried chicken.
âA few months ago, when the price was still right, I was paying around $ 26 a box,â Jordan said. “Then it went to $ 30, then $ 32, then $ 34, and now it’s $ 41.”
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One can of oil used to cook Wagon food is about five gallons. âI buy about 18 a week,â Jordan said.
According to the world news agency Reuters, the most widely used edible oil in the world is palm oil. A shortage of manpower in Malaysia is at the root of part of the problems. The Southeast Asian country, along with Indonesia, accounts for 84% of global palm oil production.
A December 2020 press release on the subject of ResearchAndMarket.com also noted the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
âDue to the current outbreak of infection with the novel coronavirus, edible oil refineries have seen their operating capacity drop to around 50%. Capacity is also linked to foreclosure measures that have resulted in the delayed harvest of some oilseeds, for example mustard seeds in India. “
Jordan refuses to follow the market’s lead and has not changed prices or portions, although the price of cooking oil continues to rise.
âI didn’t do anything,â he said. “I just absorbed it.”
Renad Qattoum and his family serve fish and other fried products in their Big restaurant Sharks Fish and Chicken on East Prairie Avenue in Decatur. The restaurant opened in November 2019, months before the pandemic limited the operation of most businesses. Qattoum said his family was ready.
âSince COVID, they’ve been talking about the high prices,â she said.
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Shark menu prices have changed several times since the restaurant opened. âAbout a month ago we had to make about three changes to our menu,â Qattoum said.
Besides fish and chicken, popular fried dishes include mushrooms, okra, hush puppies, and fries.
Unlike other restaurants, the Sharks business has grown, according to Qattoum. âWe’re used to people calling their order, come in really fast,â she said. âPeople love fish and chicken.
Whether busy or not, many restaurants face challenges when ordering supplies and food. âSo we always overorder when it’s available,â Qattoum said.
Restaurateurs and managers work with various supply companies, even for oil, to contract out the best products and prices. Their suppliers often suggest that companies increase the prices of their products to compensate for increased procurement costs.
Brumleve doesn’t feel comfortable with this suggestion.
âYou are constantly competing for the lowest food prices and the best food quality,â he said. âAt some point, you have to make a choice, do I increase my prices or do I change my quality.
Restaurant owners and staff are fighting against this decision.
âBut either way, we just eat it (the cost),â Brumleve said. âBecause the most important thing for us is that our customers are satisfied. “
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Wallaby’s Restaurant and Lounge
Contact Donnette Beckett at (217) 421-6983. Follow her on Twitter: @donnettebHR