Rising food prices, supply chain issues pushing up menu prices

Diners may notice a higher number on the receipt next time they're out to eat. Restaurants are up against a storm of obstacles from soaring food prices to shipping delays. It's forcing some restaurants, still recovering from the pandemic, to make the difficult choice to raise menu prices.

"Everything just seems to be piling on," said John Horne, owner/operator of multiple locations of Anna Maria Oyster Bars. 

Inflated food costs, higher worker wages, supply chain shortages and delays are just a few things restaurants are up against. At this week's Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association Board meeting, there was no shortage of worry.

"It's keeping everybody up because you can only pass on so many costs," said Horne, who also serves as Restaurant Director and Secretary/Treasurer on the FRLA Board of Directors.

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Items like chicken wings are getting pricier. "It's $140 a case versus what was $40," Horne said.

Plastic gloves aren't that easy to find, either. "They've gone from $20 a case to $140-plus, and again, sometimes it's hard to get those," Horne said.

Supply issues are even keeping favorites like Alaskan King Crab legs and clam strips off the menu.

"One of our most popular items, I can't get them from anyone," Horne said.

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According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, major commodities in the wholesale food price index are way up since last year. Beef rose 57.7%, fat and oils rose nearly 50%, eggs are up almost 40%, and processed poultry increased 30%. To offset that, menu prices, on average, are up 4.7%.

Tampa-based Bloomin' Brands, which owns Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba's, Bonefish Grill, Fleming's Prime Steakhouse and Aussie Grill just announced plans to raise prices by about 3%. 

Bloomin' Brands sent FOX 13 a statement, saying, "Raising our menu prices is a last resort. However, it is necessary to counter the inflationary pressures from commodities and labor. We will keep the increase as minimal as possible."

Florida restaurants face tough decisions. 

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"The prices will be going up there," Horne said. "There's no way around. You know, we're on small margins now. So, it's not like you can just keep biting into that margin."

Eateries must strike the delicate balance of carefully raising prices to stay afloat while not pushing customers away.

"At some point, they will say that's more than I can afford to do," Horne said about customers. "I won't eat out as often or maybe they'll cut one day a week out of eating out, any of that is going to harm us tremendously."  

Chili's, McDonald's and Chipotle are raising prices, too. But adding a few cents to menu items doesn't always drive customers away. In fact, Chipotle saw record sales in its third quarter, despite a 4% price increase.