Lettuce chaos hits pub meals as restaurant owners forced to make tough decisions on pricey vegetable


Lettuce chaos hits your favourite pub meal as restaurant owners forced to make some tough decisions after diners leave the pricey vegetable ‘untouched’

  • Aussie pubs are considering making side salads optional with traditional meals 
  • It comes as businesses seek to adapt to the cost of lettuce – now up to $12 a head
  • Some venues asking customers whether they will eat the salad when they order
  • One pub said it fills an entire garbage bag with salads that customer do not eat 

Classic Australian pub meals are undergoing a big change right now as restaurateurs struggling with the rising cost of produce consider making side salads optional to combat the soaring price of lettuce. 

Fresh vegetable prices have skyrocketed over the past few months as demand outstrips supply after flooding in Queensland and northern NSW ravaged crops.

A head of lettuce, which typically costs about $2, can cost shoppers up to $12 at the moment, which has prompted hospitality businesses to make compromises to their menus. 

Most fast food chains have recently been forced to swap out their lettuce, with KFC, Subway and Oporto all using a budget-friendly cabbage blend on their sandwiches and burgers.

Now, some pubs have started asking patrons whether or not they will be eating the automatic addition, which usually accompanies chicken schnitzels and steaks with a serve of chips – prior to sending out their plate. 

Traditional Australian pub meals that are served with chips and salad are in jeopardy amid the soaring cost of produce. Pictured: Chicken schnitzel and chips from The Duke of Brunswick

Traditional Australian pub meals that are served with chips and salad are in jeopardy amid the soaring cost of produce. Pictured: Chicken schnitzel and chips from The Duke of Brunswick 

Chelsea Harris, the chef at Wheatsheaf Pub, in Allendale North, 90km north of Adelaide, said the venue had adopted the practice after it realised many patrons only ate the schnitzel and chips.

‘It’s not something we generally do but so many people send back plates with salads untouched and it’s such a waste,’ she told The Advertiser

‘In my area alone we are finding it incredibly difficult to keep up with the increasing prices of all produce.’

Ms Harris, who recently paid $35 for a 1.5kg box of lettuce, said the business was happy to offer extra chips as compensation for the missing trimmings. 

Lucy Kolizos, manager of The Lion Hotel in North Adelaide, said asking patrons if they would like to forgo their salad ‘made sense’ during this period of fresh produce shortages.

She said patrons had been ‘incredibly understanding’ as the business seeks to reduce food waste. 

Simone Douglas, the publican of The Duke of Brunswick, in Adelaide’s CBD, said the amount of discarded side salads being sent back into her venue’s kitchen fills an entire garbage bin.  

A photo posted online last month showed a single head of lettuce on sale for $11.99 at a Brisbane supermarket

A photo posted online last month showed a single head of lettuce on sale for $11.99 at a Brisbane supermarket 

‘The advice that’s going around on social media at the moment is if you don’t really like it, ask not to have it,’ Ms Douglas told ABC News

‘It actually saves the venue some money but it also saves them throwing out a lot of material and waste.

‘If you’re a venue that is trying to reduce your footprint, and your waste as a whole, and being environmentally sustainable … then that’s something you need to look at.’

The green leafy staple is not the only vegetable which has been subjected to a price hike, with onions, fresh herbs, tomatoes, zucchini and cucumber also in short supply.

Adelaide restaurateur Frank Hannon-Tan said the surging costs of basic ingredients – which also extends to meat and seafood – was forcing businesses to adapt, with his venues opting for cheaper, seasonal products, instead. 

He has not yet removed side salads from his menus and said it was a ‘divisive issue’ that required businesses to ‘tread carefully’. 

University of South Australia dietitian Karen Murphy said removing the salad would reduce the fruit and vegetable intake for the population, which is already low, with less than 10 per cent of Aussies meeting recommended consumption levels.

She said pubs could balance nutritional needs and budgets by substituting expensive vegetables with cost affective alternatives. 

The Duke of Brunswick Hotel has been filling an entire garbage bin with discarded side salads

The Duke of Brunswick Hotel has been filling an entire garbage bin with discarded side salads 

Ms Douglas said her business had moved away from including the side salad as part of the traditional chicken schnitzel dish before the Covid pandemic.

The business took the accompaniment off as part of the inclusion and lowered the price of the meal, with those who were keen to include it able to add it as an extra for the same cost as the dish was initially. 

The changes come as the lettuce crisis continues to wreak havoc across the nation as business pivot to adapt to the skyrocketing cost of everyday goods and Aussies flock online to comment on the situation. 

Last month, a photo circulating online showed a suburban Brisbane supermarket selling a single head of lettuce for $11.99, sparking disbelief among social media users. 

In another post, two women sparked outrage after a viral TikTok video showed them appearing to fill their trolleys with ‘free’ lettuce by plucking the leaves to try and bypass the weighted pay-scale calculation. 

Meanwhile, KFC last week issued a notice on its website warning customers a cabbage ‘blend’ would be used in place of items that contained lettuce ‘until further notice’. 

Customers who wished not to have cabbage have been advised to ask to have lettuce completely removed from their order. 

The Wheatsheaf Pub, Allendale North, has been asking patrons whether they will forgo salad to cut costs and waste

The Wheatsheaf Pub, Allendale North, has been asking patrons whether they will forgo salad to cut costs and waste

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