Inside the cream cheese shortage threatening New York bagel stores

As the New York Times The city’s bagel stores are threatened with a shortage of cream cheese reported last week. In response to the shortfall, the city’s bagelries are able to buy fewer jars of cream cheese from their distributors at higher prices than ever before, while some customers fearful of running out preemptively order more. bulk cream cheese orders. The owners concerned are eager to find new methods of acquiring property; forcing them, in some cases, to be creative with their menu strategies. Many people are wondering how long this shortage will last and whether they will have to raise their prices anytime soon.

Several bagel shops, such as Bagel Bob’s in Greenwich Village and Forest Hills Bagel, a 24-hour store in Queens, said customers did indeed appear to be bracing for the worst. Bagel Bob owner Peter Messinis said that although he has been less affected by the shortage in recent weeks than a month ago, he has nevertheless noticed regulars who now order around four times as many jars. cream cheese to go than before. , before the pandemic. Meanwhile, Forest Hills Bagel manager Luis Diaz said that where the store’s delivery orders were mostly sandwiches, customers are now also ordering large jars of cream cheese, he believes. in response to shortage reports. Hopefully, Diaz says, it won’t get to a point where they “will have to limit customer orders.”

A pumpernickel bagel with olive cream cheese from Bagel Bob’s.
Robert Sietsema / Eater NY

Diaz also explained that their store was having difficulty sourcing from their main supplier, Philadelphia cream cheese owned by Kraft Heinz. “Last week no one had Philadelphia,” he says. “We have tried all the companies. This New Jersey store sold it on a first come, first serve basis. [There were] 15 crates of 50-pound jars, but by the time we got there they wouldn’t have been available. In a typical week, they go through 20 crates of 50-pound jars. These days, he says, they pay “almost double,” and that’s only for 30-pound cases.

For Bari Musacchio, owner of Baz Bagel in Soho, the shortage of cream cheese is just the latest in a series of ‘curved balls’ in the supply chain during the pandemic. To get enough cream cheese for the business – the bagel store spends a thousand pounds a week, and more when office catering is in full swing – she says she’s spent the last three weeks texting people. sales representatives and to refresh distributor websites “all day.” Po Patraakrakul of Baychester’s Bagels in Bartow, in the Bronx, traveled to Queens to secure several boxes. Meanwhile, the Forest Hills Bagel team is struggling the same. Diaz says the company is ready with bagel store contacts as far as Florida to ship cream cheese to them if things go wrong.

Many owners and managers have said that despite rising costs, they have yet to increase the prices of their menus – even though they are currently operating at a loss – for fear of losing customers. In Astoria, Between the Bagel job on her Instagram Stories that this week they were paying almost double – from $ 85 to $ 150 – for the same amount of cream cheese they normally buy.

“We are assessing the situation,” said an official at another affected store, Bagels’ R Us in Staten Island, who asked not to be named to protect his privacy. “If this appears to be a long-term problem, then we may be forced to increase our prices.”

Many bagel shop owners have shared that vegan tofu cream cheese is much easier to find right now because it isn’t affected by the same dairy supply chain issues – but, at least for at the moment, it has not sold faster in light of the shortage. . “People who are going to order vegan cream cheese are going to keep ordering it,” says Messinis of Bagel Bob, while those who wouldn’t normally order it are not more interested now.

In Queens, Jewel Bagels – Flushing’s kosher branch of Forest Hills Bagel – had no problem stocking up on cream cheese. “We work with the Cholov Yisroel brands, which means that they have been overseen by a rabbi at every step of the cream cheese making process,” says Rabbi Menachem Ungar, who runs the store, adding that he may have been easier to source because the dairy is coming from a supplier for a more niche market. He notes that in short supply or not, this special type of cream cheese tends to be more expensive. “I don’t really see other stores looking to [Cholov Yisroel] cream cheese, even during this time, for this reason, ”he says.

Park Slope’s Bagel Hole owner Phil Romanzi says they had to temporarily switch suppliers of cream cheese from Philadelphia to James Farm for regular flavors like plain or chives, but he didn’t hear customers mention a “difference in taste”. More wacky flavors, like jalapeño-cheddar cream cheese, come from an entirely different supplier who, Romanzi says, had no major problems sourcing. Ess-a-Bagel in Midtown East has turned to distributors other than Philadelphia to maintain its steady production of cream cheese of hundreds of pounds per week, according to COO Melanie Frost. “We’re notorious for putting a bunch of cream cheese on our own,” she says. This did not change during the shortage.

In the meantime, Baz offers specials for its sandwiches without cream cheese: first bacon, egg and cheese, before a persistent shortage of bacon increased their cost then honey butter bagels. Some people order the specials, Musacchio says, but for the most part, she’s found that New Yorkers are pretty uncompromising when it comes to their bagels with schmear – maybe more now than before the shortage.

“They want to be one of the last people to eat cream cheese, rather than something different,” she says.

Additional reporting by Luke Fortney and Bao Ong

About Octavia A. Dorr

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