How is inflation affecting Baton Rouge restaurants?

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Food prices in the U.S. are up 25% since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic—outpacing the overall inflation rate of 19% over the same period—and food prices in April were up 2.2% compared to April 2023.

It’s no secret that rising food prices are putting a strain on consumers’ pocketbooks, but how are Baton Rouge restaurants faring?

Russell Davis, co-owner of JED’s Local, says inflation is something that he’s “paying very close attention to.” His restaurant’s food costs increased by about 20% in the wake of the pandemic, and while those costs have fluctuated, he’s still paying at least 13% more than he was before the pandemic.

Some of those added costs are being passed on to customers, but Davis says JED’s Local is taking a hit, as well.

“We’ve increased our prices slightly, but we’ve also taken a pretty significant hit to our bottom line,” Davis says. “We’re passing on about half of the [added costs] and we’re eating the other half.”

According to Davis, consumer habits have also been affected by rising food prices.

“People still want to dine out, but they’re looking to get more for their dollar,” he says. “They’re looking for more of a value. Everybody’s in search of discounts or happy hours.”

Nick Hufft, CEO of Hufft Marchand Hospitality, says his team monitors inflation on a daily basis and is “constantly” negotiating contracts with distributors and suppliers. Baton Rouge restaurants under the Hufft Marchand Hospitality umbrella include Curbside Burgers, Gail’s Fine Ice Cream and The Overpass Merchant.

“Inflation is certainly affecting our restaurant group and I imagine every other restaurant in America,” Hufft says. “It definitely continues to be a scary thing.”

According to Hufft, his team has been making an effort to work “smarter and more efficiently” to manage costs.

In practice, that means reducing unnecessary labor, streamlining shipments and being diligent when it comes to inventory management—“dotting your i’s and crossing your t’s,” as Hufft puts it.

“If you’re placing orders without understanding how your money’s being spent, you’re putting yourself in a situation where you’re a hamster on a wheel,” he says.