Rising food costs doesn’t just mean a rise in prices when dining out. There are other changes, specifically menu updates, many restaurants have had to make in response to both rising food costs and staff shortages, reports CNBC.
Some people might assume that because food costs are up, that the immediate solution for restaurants would be to raise prices on menu items. However, a move like that could drive away customers or at least make them want to come back less frequently. Instead, customers may start to notice other changes being made at their go-to spots.
A challenge to rising food costs is the fluctuations in which items will cost more one month versus another. For example, Forbes reports that egg prices are up 52% due to a recent bird flu outbreak in the U.S. On the other hand, back in January, CNN reported that the prices of meat, poultry, fish, and eggs all fell 0.4% from November 2021 to December 2021. Unless restaurant owners double as market experts, it can be hard to keep up with these fluctuations.
“When the price of chicken wings skyrocketed most places opted to take wings off the menu completely to keep prices down and guests’ expectations consistent,” says Dana Johnson, a server since 2018. “Owners only raise prices as a last resort, not as a first response.”
Another server who has 10 years of experience in the restaurant industry (and asked to remain anonymous) says, “We had to take away one of the most popular dishes because the cost of the vanilla we used skyrocketed, and the owners didn’t want to compromise the flavor of the item with a cheaper costing vanilla.”
It’s an unfortunate reality, but while some of your favorite dishes may be missing from the menu, remember that many businesses are doing the best they can to keep customers happy without attacking their wallets. Maybe that massive six-egg skillet you usually order isn’t available. That’s okay. The Belgian waffle platter might be a nice change of pace.
“When I came back to serving after the pandemic I noticed that there were fewer items featured on the restaurant’s menu, both due to staffing and also food shortages,” says the experienced Chicago server. “We didn’t have enough people to prep some of the more detailed dishes, and the owners decided to downscale to just our most popular items to keep the prices down.”
The server says that people’s frustrations are understandable. In a (somewhat) post-pandemic world, people want to come back to something familiar that they’ve loved, and now suddenly half the menu is different or changed, and it costs more than anticipated. Rising food costs are affecting all aspects of our consumption, whether it be grocery or dining out. We all have to adjust. But if taking chicken wings off the menu at my favorite restaurants keeps its doors open, then I guess I’ll just have to take a closer look at the specials from now on.