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Aug 29, 2013 08:59 AM

Overpriced Restaurant Lobster

Why are McCormick & Schmicks still charging $13 for Lobster Bisque and $20 for a Lobster tail when Lobster is so cheap?

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  1. same could be asked of any of the hipster lobster roll joints.

    the answer?

    people think lobster SHOULD be expensive. if lobster rolls were five bucks, they wouldn't seem luxurious, therefore sales would slide.

    3 Replies
      1. re: debinqueens

        There was a story on NPR on this very topic a week ago, or so. I can't find it, but what you say is exactly that. Restaurants are keeping the price high because it is perceived as a luxury item.

        This story essentially says the same thing.

        1. Thank you, finally someone who has the same question as I do.
          Last time i checked, my local supermarket was selling a whole lobster for like $5 a pound. I am sure some high end restaurants use higher quality(if there is such a thing because my local supermarket's lobsters were quite alive and fresh). but still every time I see lobster on the menu, it's usually the most expensive item on the menu which always puzzled me.

          1. And why do some steakhouses charge $65 for a steak?
            They're simply charging what people are _willing_ to pay. Nothing wrong with that. It's the American way.

            And even more, it's the way to stay in business if the local market supports such pricing, in which case I say "more power to them".

            1 Reply
            1. re: The Professor

              A good piece of prime dry aged steak can't be duplicated at home and is expensive to begin with.

            2. Might as well ask why do restaurants charge $10 for a salad when you can get a head of lettuce for $2. Its not like the cost of an ingredient is the sole consideration for the price of a dish.

              If you feel its overpriced, don't order the lobster.


              4 Replies
              1. re: Bkeats

                Yes, I understand that. However, the cost of lettuce has not been drastically reduced in the recent months. My only point is that I'd expect to see some change based on market prices.

                1. re: trudacia

                  Wholesale prices of commodities do move around quite a bit. Even lettuce. Lobster prices are down this summer. Corn/wheat prices are up. Natural gas prices are up a fair amount since the beginning of the summer which would affect what is costs to run a stove. Restaurants don't typically adjust their prices that dynamically for changes in input costs. Do you want the menu prices to be adjusted like the CBOE? What would your reaction be if the price of lobster was flat but price of dairy spiked up (which it may given the cull that happened last summer due to the drought and high cost of feed) and they raised the price of the bisque? You would be wondering what the heck are they doing that for? Lobster prices in the store are the same. We just don't know all of what goes into the overall cost structure. If the price isn't justified to you for a dish, don't order it.

                  1. re: Bkeats

                    Bkeats, you're right of course. But one of the differences is that when beef/dairy/wheat fluctuate, it's by maybe 10-30 percent. Lobster prices have absolutely gone through the floor.

                    So someone, somewhere along the line is making an margin on lobster. I understand and agree with your salad argument ($10 vs $2). The only reason people quibble with the lobster price is that menus usually say M.P. on them, and that $35 (or whatever) price tag has the restaurant overhead built into it already, with the premium market prices of a couple of years ago.

                    I suspect eventually some restaurants will lower their Lobster M.P. and start advertising specials. Then everyone's prices may come down.

                    I'm not advocating taking up torches and pitchforks. Restaurant meals are discretionary spending, and it's not like any of us really HAVE to go out to eat anywhere.

                    1. re: egit

                      I seem to recall from previous discussions of lobster market pricing versus menu pricing/lobster roll pricing in particular that a non-negligible factor in all of this is frozen leg and body meat, which is used widely (though obviously not in whole lobster dishes or tails) and can be held and released when the market comes back up. It seems clear that lobster middle men (or retailers who control their own supply chain) are making a margin, but i think some of that profit is in yet-to-be-realized sales of this summers cheap lobster as prices creep back up, and in that sense its less a margin and more about the service (freezing, packing, holding) that the middle men provide.

              2. I find many places keep their lobster prices steady all year. So they'll make some more profit off of them in summer, when they are cheaper, but probably not make as much in late winter when they get very expensive. Also, much of the lobster selling for cheap at this time of year are barely past shedding...the shells are flexible and the meat, while tasty, is watery. Hard shelled, solid lobsters sell for a bit more. The other day, in US market in Elmhurst, they were as cheap as $3.99/lb, but they were both small and thin shelled. The ones with really solid shells were $6.99, and the larger Canadian lobsters were $9.99.

                1 Reply
                1. re: EricMM

                  I was going to say this too. The 3.99 ones are 1 maybe 1 1/4 lbs and soft shelled. You want a two/three pounder? It will cost you quite a bit more.