Restaurant menu prices to stay high in 2017, but discounts will abound

Though restaurant chains obtained pushback for elevating menu costs in 2016, they aren’t anticipated to collapse and decrease them this yr as a result of their prices are rising, particularly for lease and labor. However promotions and offers on meals could also be extra widespread.

Sorry, diners: Though restaurant chains acquired pushback for elevating menu costs in 2016, they aren’t anticipated to collapse and decrease them this yr.

However there’s a silver lining. Promotions and offers on meals could also be extra widespread, which suggests eagle-eyed diners nonetheless can seize a discount if they will discover it.

The restaurant business largely held costs regular after the recession, in a want to prop up gross sales whereas clients remained skittish. Final yr, many raised costs as they anticipated an enhancing financial system would give shoppers extra disposable revenue to eat out.

However People weren’t feeling as assured as eating places have been hoping. Shoppers are slowed down by rising prices for well being care, scholar debt and different prices, they usually even have cheaper options like grocery-retailer ready meals and at-residence kits.

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“You don’t have to go to a restaurant to get a prepared meal,” said Bonnie Riggs, an analyst with the research and consulting firm NPD. “You can order delivery, use a meal kit, get a rotisserie chicken at the grocery store. … We have so many options available to us now.”

Those alternatives are growing in number and popularity, in part because restaurant rivals — like grocery stores — are passing cheaper food prices on to their customers. Restaurants, on the other hand, largely are digging in their heels. This has created the widest price gap between food eaten at home versus food eaten away from home in decades, according to government data.

“People have sticker shock,” Riggs said. “It’s not that they don’t want to go to restaurants — it’s that they can’t afford to go to restaurants that often.”

Some restaurant companies said in their quarterly conference calls this fall that they were taking a “wait-and-see” approach to menu pricing in 2017. Among the restaurants that offered a specific plan to raise menu prices was Brinker International, which operates Chili’s and Maggiano’s.

The company said it plans to continue with price increases between 1.5 and 2 percent, offset by some discounts on food and alcohol. Buffalo Wild Wings said it plans “minimal”…

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