Pubs are being forced to use frozen chicken for parmas to combat rising costs
Melbourne pubs are turning to frozen chicken for their parmigianas to make the menu staple more affordable.
To combat rising expenses associated with labour, rent, interest rates, ingredients, and energy, chefs and owners are being forced to hike up the price of the humble parma — or resort to refried options.
The average price for a parma in the CBD demands about $28 at present and there are fears prices could soar well above $30.
So that begs the question: are consumers willing to pay for a packaged, frozen parma if it’s cheaper?
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The Arcadia Hotel owner and South Yarra publican, who preferred not to be named, said the reality was lots of pubs were investing in frozen ingredients as expenses keep rising.
“Everything’s gone up so at some point, venues have to put prices up across the board and parmas are just one of the things that goes up,” he said.
“A lot of hotels are buying frozen parmas, to be honest.”
He said chefs from local pubs to boutique hotels were bucking the trend and looking into wholesale meat companies that provide bulk frozen chicken for cents on the dollar.
“Even some of the places that have big parma nights and are boutique hotels, there’re still just buying frozen parmas.”
Reflecting on his own place of business, he said the decision to buy fresh chicken, tenderise and crumb meals in-house was a tough call, but he wasn’t willing to sacrifice the quality.
“We are actually buying in the chicken, the fresh chicken, we are tenderising them and crumbing them ourselves,” he said.
“Very few, almost no one does what we do.”
He said it was inevitable that prices would have to go up to accommodate costs, adding that there was already pressure from staff to follow other venues and raise prices.
“We are just trying to hold (the price) as long as we can and we use it as a loss leader to get people into the pub,” he said.
A spokesperson for one of the more popular wholesale chicken vendors in Melbourne, who wished to remain anonymous, said pub owners he had spoken to were finding it impossible to make their own schnitzels, labelling rent and electricity prices as a “huge problem.”
“We have just noticed that the customers buy more now,” the spokesperson said.
In what he described as a “cutthroat market”, the company was charging $3.30 for frozen schnitzels, packaged in boxes of 30.
He said he had been telling pub managers and chefs “for years” to make the switch to wholesale chicken products, and the business now received calls daily from venues looking to “shop around” for a new supplier.
He confirmed one customer, a popular pub in the Prahran area, had been buying their products through the Covid-19 pandemic to keep expenses low.
A traditional parma from the aforementioned pub currently costs $29.
It comes as sweeping legislation in Victoria, to be introduced on January 1 as part of the Gas Substitution Roadmap, will begin the phasing out of gas connections for new dwellings.
With most venues and hotels currently using gas appliances, there are fears further price surges on other meals could be on their way.
The Adelaide Advertiser reported that Australian Hotels Association South Australia president David Basheer feared if his state followed suit with Victoria in phasing out gas, the cost of a schnitzel meal alone could reach $40.
Mr Basheer said if venues were to change from gas to electric appliances, absorbing costs any further would be too hard.
“In this cost of living environment, our operators have already absorbed rises in insurance, rents, energy, wages and the cost of fresh produce,” he said.
“The prospect of a big jump in popular products like schnitzels becomes an issue if mum and dad hotel operators are forced to spend tens of thousands of dollars each to retro fit their kitchen equipment from gas to electric appliances.
“That cost would be simply too great to absorb.”
Originally published as Pubs are being forced to use frozen chicken for parmas to combat rising costs
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