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State of Potato Prices: Wholesale Restaurant Food Cost Trends

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Justin GuinnAuthor

Fluctuations in wholesale restaurant potato prices can have vast and lasting impacts on tons of ingredients — not to mention french fries, tater tots, and the likes. 

All operations are susceptible to fluctuations in wholesale potato prices due to the restaurant supply chain.

Regardless of your restaurant type or potato usage, monitoring the restaurant supply chain can help operators forecast price fluctuations, plan their ingredient costs, and set strategic menu prices.

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Toast is the point of sale system built for restaurants.

We're able to calculate the average monthly prices that eating establishments pay for potatoes by using proprietary data from xtraCHEF by Toast, our invoice automation and recipe costing tool.

The average national price that restaurants paid for a pound of potato is $1.01 in August.

Here's a breakdown of historical data on wholesale restaurant potato prices in the last year:

Restaurant potato prices have been steady over the past year — fluctuating no more than 3% month-over-month in either direction.

Here's a breakdown of recent month-over-month fluctuations in the price of potato for restaurants:

Types of potato and their uses in restaurants

There are five varieties of potatoes that are particularly popular in restaurants for their unique characteristics and culinary uses. These varieties have become staples in various dishes, adding flavor, texture, and visual appeal to menus.

  1. Russet potatoes: Russet potatoes, also known as Idaho potatoes, are a favorite among chefs for their high starch content and fluffy texture. They are ideal for baking, mashing, and frying, making them perfect for dishes like baked potatoes, mashed potatoes, and french fries.
  2. Yukon Gold potatoes: Yukon Gold potatoes are known for their buttery yellow flesh and creamy texture. They hold their shape well when cooked, making them versatile for various preparations such as roasting, boiling, and pan-frying. Chefs often use them in dishes like potato gratins, roasted potatoes, and potato salads.
  3. Red potatoes: Red potatoes have a smooth, thin red skin and white flesh. They are waxy and hold their shape when cooked, making them great for potato salads, soups, and stews. Their vibrant color adds visual appeal to dishes, making them an attractive choice for both chefs and diners.
  4. Sweet potatoes: Sweet potatoes are a popular choice for their natural sweetness and nutritional value. They have a rich, orange flesh that becomes creamy and soft when cooked. Chefs use sweet potatoes in various dishes, from sweet potato fries and casseroles to pies and purees.
  5. Fingerling potatoes: Fingerling potatoes are small and elongated, resembling fingers. They come in a variety of colors, including red, yellow, and purple. Fingerling potatoes have a firm and waxy texture, making them suitable for roasting, grilling, and sautéing. Their unique shape and vibrant colors make them visually appealing in salads and side dishes.

Each of these potato varieties brings its own unique qualities to the table, allowing chefs to create a wide range of delicious and innovative dishes for their restaurant menus.

U.S. potato imports and exports

The United States is a significant player in both potato exports and imports.

As one of the leading potato-producing regions, the U.S. exports potatoes to countries like Canada, Mexico, Japan, and Germany.

These exports include both fresh potatoes and processed potato products such as french fries and potato chips. At the same time, the U.S. also imports potatoes from neighboring countries, primarily from Canada and Mexico.

These imports usually supplement domestic supply during times of high demand or when specific potato varieties are not widely grown within the U.S.

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Idaho’s position as a top potato producer

Idaho is renowned as a major grower of potatoes due to several factors that contribute to its success in potato production. These factors have propelled Idaho to become a leading state in potato cultivation and have solidified its reputation as the "Potato State."

Idaho possesses ideal natural conditions for potato farming. The state's volcanic soil, combined with a favorable climate and ample water supply from the Snake River, creates optimal growing conditions for potatoes. The volcanic soil is rich in nutrients and retains moisture well, providing a fertile environment for potato plants to thrive.

Another crucial aspect is Idaho's geographic location. Situated in the Northwestern United States, Idaho benefits from cooler temperatures and longer daylight hours during the growing season. This combination fosters the development of the russet potato, which is the most widely grown potato variety in Idaho.

Common factors and forecasts that impact the price of potato

U.S. Potato prices can be affected by various factors, including weather conditions, crop yields, transportation costs, labor availability, and market demand.

Weather-related events, such as droughts or floods, can impact potato production, potato growers, and subsequently influence prices.

Additionally, shifts in consumer preferences and dietary trends can influence the potato industry and overall demand for different potato varieties and processed potato products.

Looking at market forecasts, changes in planting acreage, processors capacity, and government policies regarding agriculture can help provide valuable insights into potential price fluctuations within the potato market.

A history of French fries

French fries have a long and fascinating history.

Contrary to popular belief, they did not originate in France but rather in Belgium. 

In the late 17th century, residents of the Meuse Valley in present-day Belgium were frying thin slices of potatoes as a substitute for fish during the winter months when the rivers froze. 

The crispy and flavorful result gained popularity and spread throughout Europe. French fries made their way to the United States with Thomas Jefferson, who served them in the White House during his presidency. Since then, they have become an iconic side dish in American cuisine, often paired with burgers or enjoyed as a late-night snack. 

The popularity of french fries has further grown with the rise of fast-food chains, solidifying their place in the culinary world as a beloved and widely consumed potato product.

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Start tracking potato prices today

Fluctuating wholesale potato prices can fry your restaurant profits. That’s why restaurateurs should consider having a strong back-of-house cost tracking foundation that’s built on invoice automation.

Invoices are the single source of truth for restaurant costs — pinpointing prices and fluctuations for individual ingredients as well as paper goods, non-alcoholic beverages, and more.

With accurate and up-to-date ingredient prices from invoices, operators can start calculating plate costs. Plate costing is a detailed exercise that zooms into the recipes and/or individual ingredients that make up a dish — requiring detailed recipe costs and portion costs for ingredients.

Costing exercises can help show how each component is contributing to the overall profitability of a dish or drink. And recipe costing software can help make it easier to calculate and achieve an ideal balance between portions and profits.




Methodology

Toast analyzed monthly invoice items for potatoes from restaurants using xtraCHEF by Toast. Items are weighted by the frequency of orders, not quantity. A standard unit of measure is determined so that an average price can be calculated across all invoice inclusions of the ingredient.

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