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Rising restaurant prices aren’t stopping Americans from “revenge dining”

Henry Epp Apr 18, 2023
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Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Rising restaurant prices aren’t stopping Americans from “revenge dining”

Henry Epp Apr 18, 2023
Heard on:
Spencer Platt/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

Americans are going out to eat a lot. Spending at restaurants and bars was up 13% in March compared to a year ago, according to the Census Department. That’s even as prices for meals outside the home kept rising — and groceries got cheaper. 

Call it … revenge dining.

“There’s a real pent-up demand to get back out into the world again and eat out,” said James Cook, director of retail research at commercial real estate company JLL, which just put out a report on the restaurant industry. He says demand is especially high for takeout and fast food. But reservations for sit down dining are growing too, mostly in the sunbelt states, “like Florida, Texas, Arizona,” said Cook.

Getting enough staff to meet that demand is still a challenge, says Emily Williams Knight, president of the Texas Restaurant Association.

“There may be an hour wait, and guests see open tables. And that’s very much around the labor shortage that we’re still trying to work our way through nationally,” said Williams Knight.

Rising labor costs are one reason inflation has hit the restaurant sector — and why it might take longer for those prices to fall, says Omair Sharif, president of Inflation Insights. 

“Those same tailwinds don’t necessarily exist right now, when you look at restaurant inflation,” said Sharif.

On the flip side, higher wages overall are one reason Americans might feel a bit more comfortable splurging at restaurants.

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