May 31, 2021

Restaurants nationwide raise prices amid soaring costs, labor shortage

[New York Post]

With New York City’s restaurant scene coming back after COVID-19, there’s something new on the menu — bigger bills.

Diners had better bring their cash as well as their appetites, as city restaurant prices are going up thanks to rising costs in food, supplies and labor, restauranteurs said.

“If we’re getting squeezed there’s only two ways to handle it, either cut costs or raise prices, there’s no alternatives really,” Hakan Swahn, the owner of Midtown’s Aquavit, told The Post Monday.

The Nordic-cuisine purveyor said he’s spending about 15 percent more on supplies, while customers’ checks are on average about 15 to 20 percent higher.

Ciro Casella, the co-owner of San Matteo Pizzeria on the Upper East Side, said the price for “everything” has gone up “sky high.”

Alan Natkiel, owner of New Hampshire restaurant Georgia’s Northside, informed guests on Facebook that menu price items may be going up. Instagram

“Even pizza boxes, they raised like crazy,” he griped.

“I used to pay $12.95 for a bundle. Now it went to $17.95 . . . Delivery fees are up. Olive oil went up 30 percent. Buffalo mozzarella went up $30 a case. Tomatoes went up 30 percent. If the prices don’t go down in a few months, I’m going to have to raise the menu prices.”

US Labor Department data show prices across all products jumped 4.2 percent over the past 12 months — the largest increase since 2008 — and a myriad of issues is driving the uptick.

Prices across all products jumped 4.2 percent over the past year. Getty Images

During the pandemic, suppliers shrunk their operations after many restaurants closed and demand plummeted, but now that all of New York is reopening at the same time, restaurateurs say they’re facing a surge and having trouble keeping up with demand.

Compounding the issue is a nationwide shortage of not just chicken and beef, but workers.

“It’s a perfect storm,” said Andrew Rigie, head of the New York City Hospitality Alliance trade group. 

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“We have food prices going up, the labor crunch pushing wage and benefit costs up and on top of that, the extraordinarily trying past 15 months due to the pandemic.”

Luckily, some businesses are able to keep prices low thanks to the public’s pandemic-fueled affinity for drinking.

Chef Alan Natkiel. Georgia’s Northside

“One of the lemonades of COVID is that everyone’s been drinking more, so check averages have been up,” Jeff Banks, the CEO of Alicart Restaurant Group, told The Post.  “People who don’t usually have a drink have one — and people who usually have one drink are having two.” 

By Will Feuer

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