Menu price inflation hit a fresh 40-year high in March as operators continued raising prices to adjust for their own cost increases, according to new federal data released on Tuesday.
Food-away-from-home inflation rose 6.9% year-over-year last month, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That was the largest 12-month increase since December 1981.
Yet that also includes steep decreases in prices at foodservice places, notably schools, where free lunch programs remain widespread. Menu-price inflation at full-service restaurants increased 8% year-over-year in March, surpassing the 7.2% increase at limited-service restaurants.
Operators have been aggressively raising prices to recover at least some margins amid historically high increases in commodity and labor costs. Restaurants’ wage rates are up more than 11% year-over-year while costs for food are up 13%, according to federal data.