The owners and staff at Pit & Peel, a new avocado-based restaurant in Gainesville, were preparing for their soft opening when the news broke.
The group had worked late nights in the kitchen and stocked up on all the necessary ingredients in order to open its doors to customers. They had no way of knowing that obtaining their key ingredient was about to become nearly impossible.
In mid-February, the U.S. Department of Agriculture abruptly announced a ban on avocados from Mexico—which exports about $3 billion worth of the bright green fruit each year—after reported threats to a U.S. inspector. The news was a shock and a major threat to the new restaurant in Gainesville.
“We had a lot of stress about the ban,” Jorge Pino, the manager of Pit & Peel, said. “We had team meetings about potential options, and we were worried that the prices of our plates would have to go up with the price of avocados.”
Pino offered the example of their most popular dish, egg toast. If the price of a case of avocados rose to $40, their egg toast price would increase from $12 to $16.
In a college town, these prices would not be considered reasonable.
“Personally, I could not see myself spending $16 on avocado toast,” UF sophomore Emma Carlson said. “As much as I love avocado toast, especially from restaurants when the taste and presentation is better than what I could make at home, that price seems a little expensive.”
It turned out that Pit & Peel would not have to test the market price boundaries. A week after enacting the ban, the United States announced it would resume avocado imports after obtaining security assurances for its Mexico-based inspectors.
The news brought sighs of relief Pit & Peel.
“It felt like a weight was lifted off our shoulders, and now we can focus on perfecting our food,” said Pino.
The kitchen is once again in development mode preparing for the grand opening, and Pino is confident the offerings will be popular.
“Avocados are somewhat representative of a healthy food around the world, so we thought that cooking brunch and integrating the healthy product would be of interest to people,” Pino said.
Most of the restaurant’s breakfast dishes include avocado, from avocado toast to salad vinaigrette to waffles with avocado in the batter. The staff is still deciding whether the dinner menu will be avocado based.
Pit & Peel’s only location is in Gainesville, and during the soft opening the restaurant is offering menu items on a limited basis. The goal is to gauge customer response to the menu.
“Before we really start marketing our restaurant’s name, we need to learn what we are making and how to structure it,” Pino said. “By the time we are cooking and preparing our dishes, we will have it perfected.”
Pit & Peel is a restaurant that is small in size but decorated to capture the eye. To the left of the front door hangs a bright pink neon sign that says, “Kiss My Hass.”
“People love the neon sign,” Pino said. “It is trendy, but if someone knows our restaurant by something iconic, we want it to be the dishes that we create, not the sign.”
Still, the sign remains popular.
“Seeing people taking pictures of the neon sign makes me want to work harder,” Pino said. “I want them to have that same passion for our food.”
Pit & Peel, located at 1220 W. University Ave., currently offers breakfast and brunch, while the staff mulls its dinner options. It is planning a grand opening for next week, although it has not set a specific date.
Pino said the soft opening started off slowly, but the last few weekends have been great, even with the stress of the ban on avocados from Mexico.
“We have so many things to offer, but it all revolves around market price,” Pino said. “Any supplement for avocados would be more expensive, but we were hopeful and wanted to expect the best out of the situation.”
Editor’s note: We have added the address for Pit & Peel to the story.