How Inflation Shows Up on Your Restaurant Bill

Groceries. Utilities. Gas. Rent. Almost everything people need in their daily lives seems to get more expensive by the day because inflation is at a 40-year high

Restaurants have been hit especially hard. In the past year, food prices alone have increased by 18 percent, not to mention the budget-breaking challenges of the pandemic and the labor crisis.

Yet most restaurants have not raised their prices 18 percent to cover that cost the way other businesses would. Restaurants are reluctant to raise prices no matter what is happening. That’s because, according to OpenTable data, 89 percent of diners have noticed rising prices and many people are quick to complain about it. It’s also because, as a group, restaurateurs got into the business because they want to take care of people. They want their hospitality to be accessible no matter the economic climate. 

But in the current environment, it’s been almost impossible for restaurants to avoid passing some of this burden on to the customer. Many have added a range of fees and charges to their bills to help cover rising costs. Between April 2021 and April 2022, the total number of restaurants in the United States adding service fees to guest checks increased by 36.4 percent, according to the Wall Street Journal

Here are some charges you might see on your next restaurant bill, what they are, and why they are there. You’ll also see some notes on why some dishes have gone up and why some that should haven’t based on general trends we’ve noticed in restaurants at large.

a mock up of a bill showing various inflation-related costs

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