The prices that restaurants have to pay to their suppliers, specifically for meat, are skyrocketing, leading to concerns that meat may soon become too expensive to put on the menu.
Like other sectors, restaurants are feeling the impact of soaring costs, with beef especially becoming a major concern for the hospitality industry.
"More expensive cuts of meat, such as filet or crowns of lamb, are in danger of disappearing from the menu. They are simply becoming too expensive," Nick Vanhoudt, purchasing manager at the meat wholesaler Carmans E. & L, told De Standaard.
When restaurants were closed or could only open during certain hours under strict Covid-19 health measures during the pandemic, cattle farmers could not sell their meat.
Many older farmers closed down and others shrank their productions, which is becoming a problem now that everything is open again. "The demand is there, but there are no supplies. The freezers are empty. The meat is just not there."
The war in Ukraine has also resulted in rising prices of chicken meat, as the country is a large exporter. "The price of the country's chickens has doubled in four weeks," Vanhoudt said.
This increase comes on top of all other rising costs lately: from expensive energy to higher food prices to high personnel costs.
For the Flemish hospitality federation Horeca Vlaanderen, this poses "an enormous challenge" to restaurant owners, as they will have to "find a balance between what they have to charge to be profitable, and what the customer is willing to pay."
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While it will be difficult for a regular brasserie to sell a steak at €30, the more expensive segment of restaurants will likely get away with high prices a little better, according to Horeca Vlaanderen's CEO Matthias De Caluwe.
"People will probably start choosing more consciously," he said. "They will pay more and eat somewhere they really like. The 'restaurant experience' will become more important in this."
For Horeca Vlaanderen, the coming months are not looking good for restaurant owners. "The effects of this crisis [in Ukraine] could last longer and become more noticeable than the coronavirus crisis. We got through the pandemic well, thanks to the support measures. But this time round, there is no such support package."