SAN DIEGO — Randy Smerik, owner of Solare restaurant in Liberty Station has noticed the uptick in the cost of food.
"Just in the last 4 weeks, we have seen a very big increase especially with items like steak and other proteins, chicken and fish. A very large increase as much as 15 or 20 percent in some cases, which is really big for us,” Smerik said.
Smerik is not alone in feeling the pain on the purse strings.
Grocery shopper Melanie Kinsley said, “The cost of produce, the cost of meat, deli, things that are prepared have gotten more expensive now.”
Nick Rando, owner of Ziti Tratorria in Natick, MA said red meat for steak tips and steak was $7.35 a pound last week and is $13.20 per pound this week.
Two-thirds of surveyed restaurant operators said their total food costs are higher than they were before the pandemic.
In April, for the fourth straight month, wholesale prices shot up for beef, pork and fruit.
Nick Kostopoulos, owner of Honey Milk Restaurant in Chicago said supply lines have been interrupted and transport costs are through the roof.
"You're seeing a new trend is shrinkflation, where they believe that a customer can comfortably pay a certain amount of something. So they're getting smaller and smaller portions,” Kostopoulous said.
Supply issues have made many menu items unavailable. Some San Diego restaurants are adding a COVID charge on customer's receipts to help offset the rising costs.
Then add a labor shortage on top of all that small businesses are dealing with.
"Menu prices are up almost four percent compared to the prior period in 2020. That is the largest increase since essentially the 2009 timeframe,” said Hudson Riehle of the National Restaurant Association.
The beef industry is seeing the inflation big time. Essner's Custom Butchering in Missouri is trying to make sense of this record rise.
"We're seeing price increases probably twice a week instead of just once a week. Everything goes up. Pork's been going up about 20 cents every delivery so that's about 40 or 50 cents a week. The big processors are not at full capacity yet from COVID and worker shortage whatever all those reasons are,” said Denise Essner.
Randy Smerik said in addition to food, paper products and packaging for to-go boxes have also increased. He remains hopeful that this spike won't last for too long.
"It could go back down, but I'm watching it every single week, so if two or three or four weeks from now, we're still looking like this, I'm just going to be forced to have to make a few course corrections,” Smerik said.
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