Central Pennsylvania Restaurants Raise Prices, Eliminating Menu Items Amid Rising Food Costs
As COVID-19 restrictions are lifted at restaurants in Pennsylvania, diners are handing out more money for certain menu items.
Restaurants are grappling with rising food prices just as they rebound from a tumultuous year marked by closures and business losses. Some owners have been forced to make difficult decisions, including raising prices and temporarily removing certain items from the menu. The higher prices aren’t limited to fine foods: burgers and wings are getting more expensive in some restaurants.
The price hikes come at a time when restaurants are already struggling to hire workers as they recover from the pandemic.
âI’ve really never seen anything like what we’re seeing now,â said Scott Wagner, vice president of John Gross & Company, a food distributor in Mechanicsburg.
Some restaurateurs are reluctant to raise prices, just as diners return to their establishments. Starting May 31, the state is lifting COVID-19 restrictions for businesses, allowing restaurants to operate at 100% occupancy for the first time since March 2020.
âIt’s a tough decision because people are rushing out the door, they want to support us and then you hammer them with the high prices,â said Georgio Giannaris, owner of Mr. G’s sports bar in the township of Susquehanna.
Some restaurateurs say they have no choice but to raise the prices.
the National Association of Restaurateurs reports that menu prices have increased by about 3.8% over the past year, the largest annual increase since 2008. The association noted that beef prices have increased by 14.5%, from pork 9.6%, fresh fruit and melons 9.3%, processed poultry 5.4% and dairy products 3.2%.
Among the hardest hit categories are meat, poultry and seafood, Wagner said, adding that a shortage of wings is driving the price hike for chicken. Nationally, restaurants are struggling to keep chicken fillets, breasts and wings on patrons’ plates.
The winter storm earlier this year in Texas, combined with increased demand for chicken during the pandemic, as people turned to comfort food and fast food, were having an impact on supplies. Some restaurants, Wagner said, have temporarily removed popular entrees from menus.
Mike Moran, owner of MoMo’s BBQ in Lower Allen Township, said he’s weighing his options at his meat-focused, mostly take-out restaurant.
âWe haven’t really done much, as long as we’re just weathering the storm except for the chicken wings,â he said. “We put them up a few bucks, and I’m actually thinking of taking them off the menu.”
Moran said that taking into account the price of ingredients such as cooking oil, blue cheese, celery sticks and sauces, chicken wings are no longer profitable. On top of that, he said the cost of deep fryer oil has doubled and meat prices have skyrocketed, breasts up 80% and ribs up 50% ago more. of a month.
To counter the price hikes, Matt Flinchbaugh, owner of Flinchy’s in Lower Allen Township, said he was listing cheeseburgers, wings and crab cakes at “market price,” a traditionally industry practice. used for items with fluctuating prices.
Flinchbaugh said he has temporarily removed the wings from the menu at his other restaurant, Home Slice in Walden, Silver Spring Township. The wings were selling 10 for $ 16 and complaints started as soon as prices hit the $ 14 mark.
Flinchbaugh said last week he paid $ 155 for a box of fresh wings, up from $ 119 in January. Around this time last year, he said the cases cost around $ 52 apiece.
âI never thought in a million years that I would put the market price on my cheeseburgers,â he said. âWe’re just evaluating the menu. We’re going to have to get rid of some of this stuff. Where is it going to end?
Overall, Wagner said several factors are contributing to the price hike, including labor shortages, as some vendors run out of employees and drivers to transport items such as meat to restaurants. Some say rising gasoline prices and shipping issues haven’t helped.
Changes in food production facilities are also contributing to this. Before COVID-19, employees at the meat-packing plant worked closely together, but Wagner noted that companies had redesigned the lines due to social distancing measures. With fewer employees, production fell, he added.
âWith the opening of the restaurant industry, demand is greater than ever before and it continues to drive up prices,â said Wagner.
The time before prices stabilize depends on several factors. Wagner suspects beef prices will start to drop after the Memorial Day holiday, while supplies and chicken prices won’t rebound until at least August or September.
âWe tell our customers that there is no way to solve this problem. You have to raise the prices. If you don’t, you are going to go bankrupt, âhe said.
Restaurateurs like Giannaris said that in addition to the higher prices, they were also struggling to find enough employees. Many are reporting an exodus of workers leaving the industry for more stable jobs as well as improved federal unemployment benefits.
Giannaris said every week he paid more for food and raised the prices for a few menu items, including chicken wings. Looking ahead, he said he doubts a full recovery is near.
âThe pandemic was nothing compared to what we will soon be faced with,â he said. âThe pandemic happened and we survived it, then it’s the lack of help. Now, on top of that, we are being hit by the huge and uncontrollable prices. We don’t know what we’re going to face next.
At the Underdog Sports Bar & Grill in Swatara Township, owner George Sgagias said he was not ready to make drastic changes to the menu. The restaurant serves a full menu of starters, burgers, sandwiches, and main courses and is best known for its wings.
The wings are priced at $ 9 for six and $ 14 for a dozen up to $ 54 for 60.
“It’s difficult for us because [wings are] 80% of our activity. It’s like McDonald’s doesn’t have a Big Mac. It’s like Pizza Hut doesn’t sell pizza. You have to get out of this, âhe said.