A global shortage of crab legs has resulted in many casinos located along the Gulf Coast pulling the buffet mainstay from their all-you-can-eat restaurants.
Gulf Coast casinos are some of the largest consumers of crab legs in the United States. The riverboats have long lured in guests for all-you-can-eat (AYCE) buffets with piles of crab legs ready for cracking.
But the Biloxi Sun Herald in Mississippi reports that casinos are no longer offering crab legs along with the standard buffet price. Instead, crab legs are being sold as add-on sides.
The wholesale price has gone up significantly and we just can’t continue to offer it,” explained Keith Crosby, general manager of the Palace Casino in Biloxi.
Currently, only two of the 12 casinos on the Mississippi Gulf Coast — Treasure Bay and Silver Slipper — have crab legs on their buffets. And the buffets with crab legs come at a premium price.
For instance, the dinner buffet at Treasure Bay costs $31.99 for AYCE with crab legs. For guests not interested in the crustaceans, the dinner rate is just $19.99.
“There is currently a shortage of both Dungeness and snow crab,” said Susan Varnes, president and COO of Treasure Bay. “In fact, all categories of crabs are at record high pricing.”
Other casinos are offering crab legs as an add-on. At Golden Nugget Biloxi, for instance, the buffet costs $19.99. Diners can add 1.5 pounds of snow crab legs for $14.99 for a total cost of $34.98.
Buffets have long been a staple of the casino experience for many. But COVID-19 resulted in casinos suspending buffet operations.
The CDC continues to recommend that restaurants avoid any sort of self-serve option, including buffets, salad bars, and drink stations. However, casinos across the country have begun reopening their buffets, albeit in new manners, such as food workers dishing out what the guest picks.
In Las Vegas, self-serve buffets are set to return on May 1. That’s the first day Clark County is allowing self-serve buffets to resume operations. Sin City goes by a variety of nicknames, and one is the “Buffet Capital of the World.”
Another staple of a Las Vegas trip for some — strip clubs — can also resume operations on May 1.
Gordon Food Service, one of the largest food distributors in the US, says in its market update this week that crab production is not currently able to keep up with demand.
As of right now, there is not enough snow crab being produced to satisfy the current robust demand,” the update reveals.
“Snow crab demand has been surprisingly strong in the past year, despite the lack of demand from casinos, cruise lines, and other buffet restaurants that have mostly been shuttered,” the update continued.
Gordon expects more quantities of crab to soon become available. The crabbing season in New Brunswick began last week, and Gordon’s says peak production in the Canadian waters will be late April.
“As things start to open up again and people start going out to eat in restaurants again, we expect that demand will remain strong. Higher prices will lead to lower demand from retail, but it seems that foodservice is poised to pick up the slack,” the note added.
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