Mar 12, 2022 - Economy

"It's almost embarrassing": Lobster price shock hits restaurants

Lobster roll

It's gonna cost you. Photo: Corin Hirsch/Newsday RM via Getty Images

Lobster prices have soared so much that restaurants are either giving their customers sticker shock, or taking it off the menu entirely.

Why it matters: The lobster price shock isn't just a supply problem or just a demand problem. It reflects both — and is a microcosm of the U.S. economy.

By the numbers: Maine lobstermen were able to sell their catch straight off the boat for $6.71 a pound in 2021, according to the Maine Department of Marine Resources. That was up 59% over the pandemic-depressed 2020 level — and up 39% over 2019.

  • That price increase coincided with rising supply — the problem was just that supply didn't rise enough to keep up with high demand.
  • The 108 million pounds of lobster that landed in Maine last year was comfortably higher than the 102 million pounds in 2019 — though well below levels of earlier in the 2010s.

Restaurants are being forced to adapt. Washingtonian magazine reports that this means $100 for a two-pound lobster at D.C. steakhouse The Prime Rib. Others are going further.

  • The Salt Line restaurant has cut lobster rolls from the menu and replaced them with shrimp and clam rolls. "Lobster rolls just aren't meant to be that expensive. It's almost embarrassing to pass that cost to our guest," partner Jeremy Carman told Washingtonian.
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