Local restaurants struggle as costs soar

Wing Stop photo by Joshua Bote

As prices tick upward in local restaurants and grocery stores, shoppers say they feel those increases.

“There has been an increase in the cost of the inventory that we are ordering. Whether it is cups, chicken, napkins or anything that the restaurant needs,” Wing Stop manager Lewis Stokes said.

Before the pandemic took hold two years ago, most prices were considered reasonable. Once the prices started to go up, Stokes said he lost many of his customers.

“At one point we were buying cups, napkins and other small items for the restaurant for no more than $50; now I order three small cases of those items, it’s like I’m paying $150,” he said.

Chick-fil-A owner Tiffany Alexander says throughout the last year, her restaurant did not make the same profit as it had prior to the pandemic.

She said most of the price increases come from the number of natural chicken patties, breaded buns, and seasonings that they order.

“The prices have gone up in the last year or some somewhere between 200 and 400 percent,” Alexander said.

It can all be summed up with one word: inflation. That is when the prices are increasing at a faster rate than peoples’ salaries.

According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, inflation during 2021 was the highest since 1982, with food prices rising 5.7% between December 2020 and December 2021.

“Nothing is more depressing to a hospitality operator than to have open seats in a restaurant or no one in the grocery store line and not be able to fill those due not for lack demand, but for lack of labor inputs, or maybe supply inputs,” Alexander said.

Over the past two years, rising prices made more people figure out how to save money on many things, whether it be buying gas their car once every two weeks or eating out once or twice a month.

Other restaurant owners say inflation is why some foods aren’t on the menu anymore, or why they are running out of items more frequently.

According to the Department of Labor, the food-at-home price rose a whopping 6.5% in December over the previous 12 months, compared with 6% for eating away from home during the same time.

Food prices are soaring, putting pressure on restaurants and grocery store shoppers alike. But the cost of eating at home is climbing faster than the bills for dinner away from home.