AUSTIN, Texas — If you have gone out to eat recently, you may have noticed you are paying more for your meal.
The Texas Restaurant Association said 92% of restaurants in Texas have increased prices for menu items over the past three years. They said this is due to rising food and supply costs, increasing employee pay, and other price increases created by the current economy.
Bouldin Creek Café has been around in South Austin for more than 20 years and the owner said the past three years have been challenging.
“Honestly, I don't see how people do it. We were fortunate enough to receive a restaurant grant and I don't think we'd be here without it,” said Leslie Martin, owner of Bouldin Creek Café.
She said they have faced all sorts of price increases, including with their property taxes. She said her employees are also facing affordability issues in Austin and didn’t want them to have to rely on tips to make a living wage.
That is why the restaurant has added a 20% “fair wage surcharge” on all customer checks to help with the cost of living. They started this in 2021 with guidance from the group Good Work Austin.
“The main goal is to basically treat the service industry as a valid profession and it should have some of the perks that go with being in a professional job,” said Martin.
Martin said she is already pulling into savings to help with other operating costs. This is common for many Austin restaurants.
“It's really been a series of challenges for almost three years now,” said Kelsey Erickson Streufert, the chief public affairs officer for the Texas Restaurant Association.
Streufert said in Texas, 47% of restaurants have reduced their hours of operation and 49% have postponed plans for expansion due to rising costs and staffing. She also said wholesale food prices are the highest they have been since the 1970s, which is a big reason menu prices are up.
Another reason is paying for staff. She said nearly 70% of Texas restaurants do not have enough staff to meet demand, so they are trying to pay employees more, which impacts the customer's bill at the end of a meal.
“On average, the nationwide hourly wage in our industry has risen 10.6%, which is nearly double what we've seen across the entire private sector,” said Streufert.
Streufert said this is a good thing and that these workers deserve more compensation. Whether it is an increase on a menu item or a fair wage surcharge, she asks customers to be understanding.
“Every single item or service that comes into a restaurant to create that experience for you as the customer, the price has doubled or tripled in the past year or two,” said Streufert. “So, there's real economic pressure on these restaurants.”
Martin said that they have felt support from the community at Bouldin Creek Café in regard to their added charge. She said they are thankful people understand.
“We get people saying that they come on purpose because they know that we take care of the workers,” said Martin.
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