Pandemic Pricing: Restaurants may charge more, ask customers to be patient

Posted at 4:24 PM, May 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-20 17:25:25-04

Local restaurant owners are struggling to stay alive as the pandemic has completely shaken up the way they conduct business, and you might have already noticed additional costs on your receipts.

Some owners have decided to increase their prices to help cover the additional costs of operating a restaurant during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Alexa Alfaro, the co-founder of Meat on the Street, told her customers this month they would be increasing their prices to keep up with the increasing cost of meat, as well as the additional cost of having to use delivery services to get their food to people.

"We did a whole menu evaluation and said, 'hey should we be keeping these menu items on' and we really need to watch our numbers right now so we can keep our staff employed throughout the entirety of this," Alfaro said.

Her Filipino restaurant, food truck and catering service employs five people, and she runs the business with her family.

They decided to increase pricing by up to $2. She said she wanted to be up front with her customers about the change in prices, and was met with a warm response.

"I want them to feel part of these decisions we're making and why we're making it, they then buy into the business more," Alfaro said. "They're like 'hey, that's super cool. Thanks for letting us know. We're going to support you guys tonight.'"

Thousands of restaurant owners are having to consider making the same decision.

Kristine Hillmer, president of the Wisconsin Restaurant Association, said for those making the decision, it can be a delicate balancing act.

"They're balancing... that need to raise prices to cover their expenses with the fact that they have to be competitive in a market where people are expecting good quality food at a value price," Hillmer said.

It may be different from place to place. Some restaurants may implement a surcharge, others may include a gratuity for larger orders. Whatever they do, Hillmer asks customers to be understanding.

"Understand to be empathetic to what these owners and the servers have gone through in these past two and a half, three months," she said. "They have gone through 'we don't know if we can survive this.' A lot of their staff have gone [on] unemployment, they're now starting to reopen they're scared."

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