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What European tariffs mean for restaurant menus

A price hike could be in store for many coffees, wines, whiskeys and olive oils later this month

Tariff chatter has been bubbling for a while, but on Wednesday the Trump administration took a step toward making at least some tariffs a reality. The administration announced that it would begin imposing a 25% tariff on a range of European food and drinks as early as October 18. 

The tariffs are in response to a long-standing dispute over European Union subsidies on large aircraft. But the results could impact restaurants on the ground. The list of products subject to additional duties released by the Trump administration reads a bit like a menu: coffee, sweet biscuits, waffles and wafers, Pecorino cheese, dried cherries and mussels.

Bar menus are impacted too: Wines and single-malt Irish and Scotch Whiskies also appear on the product list. 

The tariffs came after The Specialty Food Association urged the Trump administration not to move forward, noting in August that “there are few to no domestic products that can replace these imported specialty foods.”

The list of hundreds of products is grouped by different European countries. It does not include olive oils from across Europe, for example, but rather just those from Germany, Spain, or the United Kingdom. Many kinds of cheese from Italy are on the list, but wine from Italy is notably spared from the tariffs. 

Restaurant analyst Tim Powell believes these tariffs have the potential to raise prices across a wide range of restaurants. 

“It will certainly impact food and inventory costs for all restaurants — not just fine dining. Cheese products used as common food toppings, parmesan, blue cheese, are already pricey and perishable. Foodservice distributors will clearly pass those 15% to 25% premiums on,” said Powell, managing principal at industry consultancy Foodservice IP in Chicago.

“Finding a quick supplier to offset the increased prices will drive up demand and squeeze supply —raising prices. Bars and taverns serving Scotch and any other wines will certainly see declines in profit margins — these are usually how restaurants can increase profits when food is static.”

U.S. Foods, one of the largest food distributor in the country, isn’t so concerned. “We import a very small percent of our cost of goods and do not expect the recently announced tariffs to impact our business,” said a spokesperson.

“We offer a diverse portfolio of products for our operators to choose from and will work directly with our suppliers to help mitigate any potential impacts.”

Senior Editor Nancy Luna contributed to this report. 

Contact Gloria Dawson at [email protected]
Follow her on Twitter: @GloriaDawson

TAGS: Operations
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