LOS ANGELES — Inflation hit a 40-year high this week, as consumer prices increased 9% over the last year. Not only are Americans feeling it at the pump, but in the grocery stores as well. The rise in food prices is making it difficult for restaurants to stay afloat.
Owner of three new Hollywood concepts, Ronnie Muñoz, opened his first food truck in 2018 and can’t believe how inflation is impacting the industry today.
“The prices then, compared to the prices now, are about triple or quadruple what it was back then,” Muñoz said.
The chef and owner already experienced hardship opening Ronnie’s Kitchen, Besties Burgers and Todos Santos at the end of the pandemic. But now, with grocery prices jumping 12.2% compared to last year, which is the biggest increase since 1979, he never expected to spend so much money.
“On top of rent, it is hard to deal with percentages. Food is going up, but we can only charge so much. Paper goods we have to use. We can’t serve food without a napkin. Those are things we need. We are all just trying to stay alive,” Muñoz said.
He said a case of fries at Besties used to cost $20 to $30 and now it is $50, while oil and flour set him back $1,000 last week alone. Muñoz added, “If we lower the quality of the oil, it lowers the quality of the food.”
As of now, he hasn’t made too many changes. He did take pies off the menu, because it just wasn’t worth it, but he has not raised his prices for customers yet.
“It’s not something that we want to do, but it’s something that we probably have to. There’s only so much I can charge for a cheeseburger,” Muñoz said.
Muñoz is trying not to stress about what he cannot control and never wants to say restaurants may close because of inflation, but if it keeps trending upward, he doesn’t know how small businesses will make it.
“Restaurateurs, chefs, managers — we are all built to survive. So, we will keep doing what we did during the pandemic and just keep fighting the good fight,” Muñoz said.
So, if you see menu prices change at your favorite local eatery, inflation may be the reason.