Restaurant Industry Insights

Rising Olive Oil Prices and the Restaurant Industry

Olive oil is an essential ingredient in the kitchens of countless restaurants. It is prized for its unique flavor and versatility, making it a staple in various culinary applications. Olive oil is a globally traded commodity, so events across the world can affect the cost. The price of olive oil has soared in the last few years due to the unusual and unpredictable weather patterns linked to climate change that have decimated harvests in large parts of the Mediterranean. The result has been a significant increase in olive oil prices, which has left restaurateurs facing tighter profit margins and challenging decisions. 

Grades

Most people are familiar with extra virgin olive oil, the highest-grade and most expensive variety known for its robust flavor and health benefits. However, restaurateurs can consider other grades of olive oil to balance costs based on the application of the oil being used. 

  • Virgin olive oil: While not as expensive as extra virgin, it offers a desirable flavor profile for various dishes. Use it in recipes where the signature extra virgin flavor is less crucial.
  • Classic or traditional olive oil: This olive oil has been refined and is more heat-stable, making it suitable for high-heat cooking. It can be a cost-effective alternative in heat-intensive recipes.
  • Olive pomace oil: This variety is chemically extracted from spent olive pulp. It may not have the same flavor as extra virgin, but it is economical for specific applications.

By incorporating different grades of olive oil strategically, you can reduce costs without compromising the quality of your dishes.

Blends

Olive oil blends effectively mitigate the challenges of high-quality olive oil’s volatility and sensitivity to high temperatures. Extra virgin olive oil can be blended with more stable, lower-cost commodity oils like soybean or canola. The result is an oil with improved heat stability while retaining some of the desired extra virgin olive oil flavor characteristics. 

Blending olive oils can significantly reduce costs and ensure your dishes maintain their desired flavor profiles.

Alternatives

While extra virgin olive oil is renowned for its unique flavor and health benefits, it is not the only high-quality oil available. Restaurateurs can explore alternatives that offer similar qualities:

  • Avocado oil: Extracted from the avocado’s pulp, avocado oil has a nutritional profile comparable to olive oil. It boasts a mild, buttery taste and a high smoke point, making it ideal for sautéing, baking, and high-heat applications.
  • Coconut oil: Another excellent alternative, coconut oil is known for its distinct, tropical flavor and versatility in cooking and baking. It is trendy in many cuisines and can add a delightful coconut aroma to your dishes.
  • Flaxseed oil: Flaxseed oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids and has a nutty flavor. While it’s not suitable for high-heat cooking, it’s a great choice for drizzling over salads and as a finishing oil for dishes that benefit from its distinct taste and nutritional benefits.
  • Other alternatives: Work with your oil provider to identify alternatives that align with your restaurant’s culinary needs and customer preferences.

Exploring alternative oils can help you diversify your ingredient list, provide unique flavors, and cater to health-conscious customers while navigating the challenges of the olive oil market.

The olive oil crisis has created significant challenges for restaurateurs as prices rise. In this volatile market, innovative strategies are essential to maintain your culinary standards and profitability. A one-size-fits-all approach won’t suffice in the ongoing olive oil dilemma. Strategizing now will help your restaurant adapt in the long run to what may be an ongoing turbulent olive oil market. 

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