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Food prices vs. guests

Question:

How do we positively convince guests that food prices are the driving force to our inflated prices? 

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Answer:

Consumers know that prices have risen; they see it every time they go to the supermarket. One recent study showed, in fact, that in some segments dining out is now cheaper than eating at home. If you want to educate customers, you could show them a chart showing the rising cost of corn, which is what drives about 90 percent of the rising food costs. But that’s probably not the “positive” approach you’re looking for, or an appropriate one.

A better approach is to first be savvy about how you’re raising your prices and to use a market basket approach. And keep in mind that often times the best place to raise menu prices is not on the item that’s gone up but somewhere that might be less sensitive or less noticed –coffee, dessert or side vegetables, for instance – so that in aggregate you’re able to compensate for the big item that went up. What we often see is a kneejerk reaction on the part of operators and a rush to raise prices on beef or chicken when those items go up, but it’s always better to look elsewhere first to determine where increases might be less noticeable or more easily tolerated.

Selling added value is another positive strategy that can help ease the pain of price increases for guests. If your menu changes daily or weekly and is built on fresh, sustainable, locally sourced foods, that’s a philosophy and a commitment to quality that you can communicate on your menu and train your staff to communicate to guests, as well. Consumers more naturally expect and accept price fluctuations when this type of sourcing is involved.

If you do have to raise the price on an item, you can also make it more palatable by somehow adding a little more value to the plate. Maybe it’s a specialty sauce or condiment or a more upscale side item. This way, you’re not just charging more you’re offering more and that helps justify the higher price. Not every concept has the luxury of being able to pull that off, but it’s an option that should be looked at.

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