American Restaurants Are Facing a Shortage of This Staple Condiment

Mura Dominko
·2 min read

After everything the restaurant industry has been through since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, a shortage of America's most popular condiment adds another hurdle on the road toward recovery. From fast-food chains to independent restaurants, foodservice businesses of all stripes are running out of ketchup.

If you've noticed your favorite fast-food drive-thru being stingy on ketchup packets, or your go-to dine-in place suddenly serving you off-brand condiments, you're not alone, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal. Kraft Heinz, the country's #1 ketchup producer, isn't able to keep up with the growing demand for its iconic tomato sauce. (RELATED: 7 New Fast-Food Chicken Sandwiches Everyone Is Talking About.)

While Heinz's Tomato Ketchup has been in high demand in all forms, it's the clamoring for single-serve ketchup packets that's throwing the restaurant industry for a loop. Takeout has become the primary form of restaurant patronage, and businesses are having a hard time securing a larger supply of ketchup in travel-friendly packaging. Those small packets were also the perfect solution when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advised restaurants to remove shared condiment bottles from their dining rooms as a pandemic precaution.

Now, the 700-unit seafood chain Long John Silver's has had to look for ketchup packets from secondary suppliers. With an increase in demand pushing up prices, the company has spent an additional half a million dollars to replace bulk purchases with single-serve sachets, according to WSJ. Meanwhile, steakhouse chain Texas Roadhouse has had to scour retailers like Costco for alternatives to Heinz, a company spokesperson told the outlet.

As for Kraft Heinz, the company said it would ramp up production by 25% to help keep up with increased demand. Until things are back to normal, restaurants and home cooks alike may have to make peace with generic ketchup.

For more on grocery shortages, check out the Grocery Shortages To Expect in 2021, According to Experts. And don't forget to sign up for our newsletter to get all of the latest restaurant news delivered straight to your inbox.