Major Fast Food Chains Are Facing a Shortage of This Key Ingredient

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Fast-food customers expect hot fries and juicy burgers, what they don't typically worry about is produce. Unless you're headed to a salad chain, greens are an afterthought, they add a satisfying crunch and burst of freshness but aren't usually the star player. The one time you may realize their importance is when they're conspicuously missing from your sandwich. And that's a likely scenario thanks to a current shortage affecting your favorite restaurants.

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According to Business Insider, at least two fast-food chains are grappling with a short supply of leafy greens. Taco Bell and Chick-fil-A have both added disclaimers to their mobile apps late last week about a current shortage of lettuce. At the top of the Chik-fil-A app a message states: "Due to global supply chain challenges, we may be temporarily out of lettuce. Some menu items may be unavailable or prepared differently. We apologize for the inconvenience."

Chick-fil-A confirmed that a "weather-related shortage" of lettuce was impacting its menu as well as the industry at large. According to a company representative, some menu items might be prepared differently while others are unavailable altogether. For example, the romaine and green leaf lettuce might be substituted with a spring mix.

Business Insider said Subway and Panera also confirmed that some lettuce types might be unavailable, while Chipotle isn't currently experiencing any supply chain issues. We did not hear back from Taco Bell or Panera, but will update pending their comments.

A few different things are impacting lettuce supply with issues tracing back to the pandemic. During that time, farmers shifted to planting less of it because they didn't want to get stuck with a surplus they couldn't use, according to The New York Post. Restaurant Business Online echoes this, adding that the lower supply has led to astonishing prices, with a box of iceberg lettuce going from $14 in 2019 to a whopping $67—a 378% increase. Other types of lettuce saw similar price jumps.

Disease, which is known to affect lettuce, particularly romaine, is additionally adding to the problem. Lettuce volumes are expected to rebound as the growing typically shifts to locations not affected by disease around this time of year. Availability is expected to increase this week and will continue to do so through December.