Grabbing a bite to eat isn't what it used to be—at least not when it comes to prices.
Inflation is currently taking many industries by storm, and the restaurant sector is no exception. Increased prices tie back to a wide variety of factors, from higher transportation and labor costs to a rise in prices of the food itself: meat, corn, soybeans, and wheat have recently reached record price highs.
Unfortunately, more expensive commodities mean higher restaurant bills for diners, as U.S. restaurants have decided to pass on the growing operational costs to consumers. Even fast-food and fast-casual restaurants, which have traditionally been more affordable, are raising the prices on their menus in order to offset some of these price surges.
Here are several big-name brands for casual and fast dining which have recently raised their prices. For more, check out This Popular Fast-Food Menu Deal Is Becoming Extinct, Experts Warn.
Chipotle Mexican Grill
Chipotle recently hiked up its prices by about 4%, which translates to about an extra 30 to 40 cents per meal. The move is helping to fund the new $15-per-hour rate for their staff—a wage increase that came as a response to mounting public demand for more liveable wages, as well as serious staffing shortages.
However, the company noted that further price increases don't appear to be on the horizon, despite the additional rising cost of ingredients.
Instead, the beloved burrito chain is making headlines lately for another socially-conscious initiative: they are partnering with the White House to help raise awareness about vaccinations by offering a buy-one, get-one deal on July 6.
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The classic Old Country Store, known for its Southern charm and comfort food, has announced that they recently increased their prices by about 3%. The reason behind the increase, apparently, is so that they can cover rising labor and commodity costs.
It might be slightly more expensive to dine at the Barrel now, but the chain is aiming to draw customers in with an array of new perks. This summer, they are launching a Care It Forward campaign that celebrates connection and care in a post-pandemic world. The summer-long event will include a variety of treats for Cracker Barrel diners, from in-store surprises to a live music concert series.
Shake Shack has raised its prices not once, but twice in the last year. The first increase came last December, when the menu prices at the burger and fry joint went up by 2%. Then, in February, the Shack increased their delivery prices by 5%. Now, according to The Wall Street Journal, further hikes might be on the way due to higher labor and meat prices.
And while a burger may cost a few extra cents, with the way Shake Shack's new summer menu is shaping up, it's likely worth it. Shake Shack just announced new sweet and spicy line-up, which includes a Hot Honey Chicken Sandwich, Hot Honey Fries, Hot Honey Chicken Bits, and more.
Red Robin is another classic all-American brand which opted to increase their prices—albeit minimally—to cover the spike in labor and commodity costs. On average, their food will cost about 3% more.
The chain's focus isn't just on cost coverage, though. Restaurant Dive reported that by the end of 2021, Red Robin will have added 120 more Donatos pizzas to their locations, making their brick-and-mortars even more attractive to diners.
When it comes to Texas Roadhouse, which is America's largest steakhouse chain, one might expect a price increase would be noticeable. However, the Roadhouse has raised its prices by a modest 1.4% and is expected to get to a 1.75% increase this year, in an effort to help alleviate the cost of paying workers fairer wages.
But the price increases don't seem to be deterring guests who visit the steakhouse's locations—check averages were up by 5.5% during the first quarter, and the chain's to-go sales are still going strong. Guests are spending more on both food and alcohol.
Taco Cabana and Pollo Tropical
Much like Red Robin and Cracker Barrel, Fiesta Restaurant Group recently jumped on board with the 3% price increase at both of its restaurants. Its chains Taco Cabana and Pollo Tropical, located in Texas and Florida respectively, will implement the price raise in an effort to offset higher labor and commodity costs.
That said, the change might not last at Taco Cabana. As of the time of publication, early reports indicated that Fiesta Restaurant Group is selling its Texas empire to YTC Enterprises. It's unclear what pricing model they will adhere to, if the sale goes through.
For more, check out the 108 Most Popular Sodas Ranked By How Toxic They Are.