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Restaurants forced to adapt amid record-inflation and rising food costs

Stalled shipments of avocados and other produce along the U.S.-Mexico border has led to Geronimo Lopez to seek other options.

SAN ANTONIO — Rising food prices prompted by inflation are hard to avoid these days, whether it’s at the grocery store or restaurants. But the skill to adapt is one that the owner and head chef at Botika has plenty of experience in, having weathered through the worst of the pandemic.

The U.S. Bureau Labor of Labor Statistics released its consumer price index report for March, which revealed inflation spiked 8.5% compared to a year ago, the sharpest increase since 1981.

Meanwhile, Botika’s Geronimo Lopez is whipping up different but familiar flavors a bit more than usual these days at the Japanese-Peruvian restaurant. 

“Just kind of adapting and changing the menu accordingly more frequently and being in close contact with our suppliers to see what we can use to balance out the inflation that we’ve been seeing,” Lopez said.

The disrupted supply chain of avocados has prompted Lopez to purchase produce from different companies. Lopez is monitoring the situation along the U.S.-Mexico border and how the stalled shipment of goods will impact his produce inventory.

“We just had to source it differently and obviously we’re very concerned that with the issues that we’re seeing at the border right now, that’s going to affect us in the short term more than inflation has already done in the past few months,” Lopez said.

Worldwide events are playing a critical role in determining the price of products, according to Tom Tunstall, senior director of research in the UTSA Institute for Economic Development. Among the events is the war in Ukraine triggered by Russia’s invasion in February, impacting fuel costs and exports of wheat.  

Ukraine and Russia combined produce between 20-30% of the world’s wheat exports.

Tunstall doesn’t anticipate dramatic inflation relief anytime soon.

“We’re going to see things get worse before they get better,” Tunstall said. “The shortage of wheat that’s going to occur on a global basis, the fact that fertilizer is more expensive, energy prices got to work their way through the system.”

As for Lopez, he’s doing what must be done to keep prices down and ensure customers are satisfied despite the ongoing issues

“What we’re trying to do is keep the plate as true as it is, trying not to reduce the portion, just to be very transparent about how we go about it.”

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