How Are Restaurants Navigating Inflation?
As the seasons turn and restaurants set their sights to a busy holiday season, one lingering topic can’t seem to exit the news cycle: inflation. Months after concerns were raised, the conversation has shifted from if inflation was a real threat to how long? For this edition of the Resy Roundtable, we checked in with a few owners and operators across the country to hear how they’re handling this period of economic uncertainty as supply chains snag and rising costs create more obstacles.
1. Instability makes room for innovation
In a bold move, Fish Cheeks’ (New York City) co-owner Jenn Saesue and general manager Aditi Sonajirao chose to add a new, high-price point Dungeness crab dish to menu, capitalizing on guests’ shifting expectations about increased prices. The team found that balancing premium items with more moderate options alleviates shock. “This business is already risky, so you have to give it everything,” says Sonajirao.
At The Katherine (Fort Lauderdale, Florida), co-owner Marissa Balloo has been putting more energy into the creative concepts that result in a more frequent rotation of menu options. She promotes limited-time offerings, telling guests, “The menu may not be same the next time they’re back.”
2. Trust your guests to have an open mind
Increasing prices is an inevitable consequence of rising food costs, but it doesn’t necessarily drive diners away. General Manager Andrés Clavero of Galit (Chicago) welcomes any raise of any eyebrow as a chance to have an open dialogue. By educating guests on where rising costs come from, guests in turn display more empathy and loyalty to the restaurant.
Balloo aims to build trust amongst customers at The Katherine by delivering the best experiences possible — cost aside. “[We] urge them to focus more on the culture of our hospitality,” she adds.
There’s less concern about sticker shock on sight at Fish Cheeks because prices are published prices on the website. “I’ve found most people look at the menu [ahead of time],” says Saesue.
3. Gradual menu changes ease the sting
Staying up to date on fluctuating food costs instead of sticking your head in the sand is essential to run a successful restaurant during inflation-era dining. At Fish Cheeks, Sonajirao says, “We try to ease in [new menu items],” referring to their tactic of testing higher-cost menu items as specials before hitting the main rotation.
Galit accounts for price increases by finessing a pre-fixe menu, ensuring higher cost items are balanced with lower cost ingredients. This element of stability allows Clavero to feel confident; “Everyone coming to this restaurant is spending a certain amount of money,” he says.
So, what does the future hold? Optimism. While there is plenty of uncertainty to come, there is still a strong demand for exceptional hospitality. As Clavero says, “At the end of the day, people want to support restaurants.”