Lunch price magic

February 10, 2012

By serving smaller bites foods such as sliders, restaurant operators keep menu prices from rising much.

Less is more – for savvy restaurateurs.

That’s our thought at The Lempert Report as we interpret the findings of new Intellaprice research on restaurant menu pricing.

Findings of their 2011 Casual Dining Study show a 94 cents decline in lunch entrée prices (10.4%) to $8.12 this past year, compared with a 93 cents increase the year before – despite cost hikes for chicken, beef, cheese and other commodities. 

How did operators achieve this? Other sources we spoke with say the secret is in sliders – part of a “smaller bites” approach that gives diners the core ingredient they seek, but in a mini-size with more bread, onion and fillers to help control expenses.

The outcome for disciplined patrons could be better portion control, fewer calories and a slimmer tab.

Yet savings are an illusion for less-disciplined patrons. According to the Intellaprice data, the prices of side dishes rose 47 cents or 12.1% to $4.36, and the prices of desserts climbed 38% or 7.5% to $5.42.

Dinner entrée prices were also up by 41 cents or 3.0% to $14.09, and appetizer prices edged up by six cents or 0.8% to $7.69.