Economy Featured Article

Higher Costs Eating Nation’s Lunch Business

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By Jeff Flores

The lunchtime meal is being handed its own lunch – thanks to increased costs that are keeping workers eating at their desks instead of in restaurants.

In 2016, Americans made 433 million fewer lunchtime trips to restaurants than in 2015, creating a $3.2 billion loss in revenue. Yet the population continues to increase and so do the state and local costs such as minimum wage increases, increasing transportation costs, taxes and mandated employee-reporting requirements.

According to Julie Jargon, with The Wall Street Journal:

The average price of a restaurant lunch has risen 19.5% to $7.59 since the recession, as rising labor costs pushed owners to raise menu prices—even as the cost of raw ingredients has fallen.

The average lunch burger check—including fries and a beverage—has risen 22% since the financial crisis to $5.83, with a 4% increase last year alone, according to NPD.

The cost of eating out—especially when cooking at home has become cheaper—is a key reason hamburger chains are seeing less foot traffic, NPD restaurant analyst Bonnie Riggs said.

(Julie Jargon, “Dinner Are Finding $13 Burgers Hard to Swallow,” The Wall Street Journal, 5/31/17)

As consumers face rising restaurant prices, they are also contending with higher housing costs, increased gas taxes, additional sales taxes and local and state fees. Just about everything we own, look at, or touch is going up in price.

When prices go up, our dollar has less value and this makes bringing your lunch from home an attractive alternative that is being explored by more and more people.

Even famed American fast food burger chain McDonald’s has suffered due to fewer people choosing to eat out. McDonald’s was even forced to end its once popular dollar menu. It’s a strange feeling knowing that you can no longer gather some spare change and grab a quick burger while in a rush or simply enjoy a once affordable burger.

Because taxpayers’ pocketbooks are being squeezed like an empty ketchup bottle, this once proud American family tradition and working week institution is now being relegated to the status of “high priced dining.”

Jeff Flores currently serves on the Kern High School District Board

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