Fast-Food Menu Prices Have Soared During The Pandemic

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The pandemic has apparently led to higher prices for fast food.

In January, prices for food away from home—or menu prices—increased 3.9% year-over-year. That was the same rate as in December. That is also the highest rate for menu price inflation since late 2008, when the country was in a deep recession.

But these menu prices aren’t evenly spread. Much of that abnormality can be traced to a certain type of restaurant: One without wait staff.

According to federal data, prices at limited-service restaurants increased 6.2%. By contrast, prices at full-service restaurants increased 2.9%.

What’s more, the gap first began to open in March of last year—when states closed dining rooms around the country. Check out this graphic:

Limited service menu prices v. full service

Prices at counter-service restaurants began increasing at higher rates starting last March.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

The difference can likely be explained in two words: Demand and wages.

In the post-pandemic era, demand at limited-service restaurants has far exceeded demand at full-service restaurants. While the supply of full-service restaurants is constrained because of limitations on seating and the closures of a number of locations, what’s left of that business hasn’t necessarily been all that eager to take pricing dramatically higher, lest they lose customers.- READ MORE

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