Last summer, lobster-roll prices skyrocketed, and that trend doesn’t seem to be abating.
At New York’s Red Hook Lobster Pound, a lobster roll and fries will set you back $32, a price that the restaurant had tried to avoid for a while. But with costs for everything soaring, co-founder Susan Povich had no other choice, The New York Times reported on Tuesday. To cover those expenses, the lobster roll had to become pricey.
Red Hook Lobster Pound uses claw and knuckle meat, and Povich isn’t willing to buy lower-quality lobster to cut costs. (A pound of lobster went from about $14 in 2008 to almost $50 during the worst of the pandemic.) She also won’t downgrade the quality of the fries that accompany the classic sandwich. (Frying oil costs almost $44 a case.) So other changes have been made: Free coleslaw no longer comes with the combo, and aluminum plates have replaced those made of china, since aluminum requires less water and less labor to clean, according to the Times.
The lobster roll is one of the restaurant’s most popular items, and as such, it has to help cover the restaurant’s expenses, which themselves have risen over the years. Training staff runs about $15,000 a year, while insurance costs have risen some $12,000 since 2019. To cover the latter increase, Red Hook Lobster Pound has to sell an extra 5,300 lobster rolls a year, The New York Times noted. Factor in other expenses—like $54,000 a year for gas and electricity—and you see just how costly running a restaurant can be.
This year, Povich said, sales are down for the first time in a while. And given that most people prefer to enjoy a lobster roll in the summer, the impending winter doesn’t leave much room for a sunny outlook on a bump in business. Since mid-2022, when Red Hook Lobster Pound raised its lobster-roll price, the restaurant has also had to deal with negative online reviews, people saying that the amount of lobster doesn’t justify the $32 price tag. While she’s concerned about so much, that doesn’t really bother Povich.
“I’d rather people complain about my prices than complain about my food,” she told the Times.
Red Hook Lobster Pound is still churning out that delectable seafood it’s become known for. But not everyone understands why that fare has to cost so much more now.