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Rise in seafood prices affecting Las Vegas restaurants, costs being passed along to diners

King crab legs
Posted at 2:25 PM, Jun 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-16 10:05:36-04

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Limited supply and the cost of gas. Those are two huge reasons behind a surge in the price of seafood across the country and here in Las Vegas.

If you ever eat at Crab Corner Maryland Seafood House, orders of blue crab and king crab legs are the way to go. But getting those delicious crustaceans to the restaurant has been a challenge.

“My first question is always do you have the item, and then my second question is how much does it cost right now.”

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A cost that has gone up significantly in a short amount of time. Owner John Smolen saying it’s affecting his high-dollar items the most.

“King crab legs. That has received about a 90% increase over the last 90 days. It’s something I’ve never seen before at such a rapid turnaround on pricing,” he said.

Smolen also says the wholesale price of Dungeness and snow crab legs have gone up between 17 to 33% and clams at about 100%

“We used to sell our Alaskan king crab legs for $34.99 a pound and we’re currently selling them for $59.99 a pound which is still a very tight margin,” he said.

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He believes the rise comes from a few factors like the price of fuel going up while driving the seafood to its destination as well as the cost of gas for the fishing boats out at sea. Smolen also says the pandemic depleted the reserve supplies of seafood at wholesalers, drastically limiting the amount for restaurants and fish markets.

“So, everything is being made just in time in inventory and shipped to customers and until we can get our production way back up ahead of our usage and build up a reserve supply, I don’t see the prices changing anytime soon,” Smolen said.

He says he’s doing his best to not have his customers completely bear the brunt of the price increases and says profit margins are much tighter than before. He remains committed to offering the best seafood at the best price.

“They can always call and get the pricing ahead of time, but I would be just ready to spend more across the board. The food cost is higher and there’s not much we can do about that right now,” he said.

The owner also says adding to his challenge is the price of fryer oil used to cook the seafood. He says the wholesale price has gone up about 200%.