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High avocado prices impacting restaurants

High avocado prices impacting restaurants

Here’s the scoop: Avocado prices continue to dip.

While wholesale avocado prices have come down nearly $20 for a 25-pound box after an early July spike, the popular fruit still costs 80% more than this time last year, said David Magaña, vice president and senior analyst at Rabobank based in Fresno, California.

Some restaurants have started charging more for guacamole or taking avocados off the menu. Faux guacamole recipes made from calabacitas, a small Mexican squash, have been circulating on social media.

But despite the higher prices, National Avocado Day, held annually on July 31, hasn’t been cancelled.

Chipotle Mexican Grill will add free guacamole on entree orders placed on its app and website Wednesday, a promotion that last year proved to be so popular that officials said it “broke the internet.”

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The made-up holiday led Qdoba Mexican Eats to start a Change.org petition calling on its competitors to “make guacamole free of charge, not just for one day, but everyday.”

Qdoba, a fast-casual chain with more than 730 locations, is known for not charging extra for guacamole or queso daily at participating restaurants. However, some have started charging a surcharge because of the increased prices.

A sign at a Greenwood, Indiana, Qdoba where guac is usually free said “due to high avocado prices, we’re temporarily adding a $0.45 charge for guacamole. We appreciate your understanding.”

Qdoba did not immediately respond for USA TODAY’s request for comment on how many locations are charging for guac.

What’s next

During the Chipotle’s July 23 earnings call, CEO Brian Niccol said “the biggest wild card in terms of our margin potential is avocados.”

The higher prices were partially offset by a menu price increase, Jack Hartung, Chipotle chief financial officer, said during the call.

“Avocados is the inflation story that we’re seeing and it’s not really sustained inflation. It’s more of a cyclical thing, it’s a supply and demand out of balance right now,” Niccol said. “We expect that to become more normal.”

If prices continue to rise, it could lead restaurants to change menus.

Mission Taco Joint, a small Missouri restaurant chain with six locations, uses about 150 cases with 48 avocados in each per week, said chef Jason Tilford, adding they usually see an increase in avocado prices once a year.

“It’s something we’ve gotten used to by now, so we just eat the cost because it’s not fair to pass on to our guests,” Tilford said. In the event “that avocados got to a price range we weren’t comfortable with, or became unavailable, we would temporarily take them off the menu.”

The wholesale prices of mid-sized avocados from Mexico is around $65 for a 25-pound box, down from $84.25 the first week of July, Magaña said.

“Over the next month or so, price levels will depend on how fast California shipments decline, and also on how fast shipments out of Mexico continue to ramp up,” Magaña said. “After September, the U.S. avocado market will rely heavily on shipments from Michoacán, so any potential supply disruption in Mexico would soon impact prices.”

National Avocado Day deals

Here are discounts and freebies available at participating locations Wednesday unless otherwise noted. Offers can vary and most times are offered while supplies last. To be on the safe side, always check with your closest location before heading out. 

Carl’s Jr.: The fast-food chain announced it has a new spin on avocado toast – the Guacamole Double Cheeseburger. The new menu item is available for $2.99 through Oct. 8 and pricing and participation vary by location. On Wednesday there will be a National Avocado Day Instagram post about a contest for the chance to win a trip for two to “The Ultimate Avocado Brunch” at a Carl’s Jr. location in Los Angeles.

Chipotle: Get free guac on any entrée purchased in Chipotle’s app or website Wednesday. No promo code is needed and this offer is only on digital orders for delivery or order ahead. Also when you join Chipotle Rewards get a reward for free guacamole and chips after you make your first purchase. Join at www.chipotle.com/rewards.

Chosen Foods: The avocado oil brand is giving away an avocado grove in Jalisco, Mexico for its pre-National Avocado Day promotion. Enter by 11:59 p.m. PST at www.avocadoempire.com. 

Del Taco: With the restaurant’s app Wednesday, get a buy-one-get-one free deal on the Beyond Avocado Taco. Download the app at www.deltaco.com/app.

El Pollo Loco: Get free chips and guacamole Wednesday with the online purchase of any regular-priced Family Dinner with coupon code GUAC.

Just Salad: Buy one Avocado Dreamsicle smoothie and get one free Wednesday at all U.S. locations.

Rubio’s Coastal Grill: Get free chips and guacamole with any order Wednesday with a coupon at www.rubios.com/coupons/national-avocado-day.

Tijuana Flats: Get a free small side of guacamole with purchase of an adult entree Wednesday when you mention the offer. In-store only. 

Veggie Grill: Get double points on the app Wednesday when you order Summer Avocado Toast.

Local deals: Locally owned businesses and smaller chains may also have specials for National Avocado Day. One of the easiest ways to find out is to check restaurants’ social media channels.

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Contributing: Amy Haneline

Follow USA TODAY reporter Kelly Tyko on Twitter: @KellyTyko



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