COVID-19

How eating out will cost us more post-lockdown

Restaurant and Catering Australia chief executive Wes Lambert said many Victorian hospitality businesses have reported that they have or expect to increase menu prices by at least 10 per cent, as they reopen from the latest Delta lockdown.“This isn’t about making more profit, it’s about surviving,” Mr Lambert said.“Businesses are faced with critical staff shortages. They have had to offer some positions between $40 and $50 an hour, that would normally pay between $20 and $30 an hour.“And as Covid has affected the supply chain, costs (of ingredients) have also increased.”Owner of Prahran’s Angus & Bon, Liam Ganley, said prices on its menu have already gone up, with the steakhouse now paying 20 to 30 per cent more for the beef it serves.“It’s a really tricky one, we have to raise our prices … but at the same time by doing so we are going to lose customers,” Mr Ganley said.“We can’t afford to run happy hours right now. We can’t afford to run meal deals.”He said his restaurant no longer has the staff to be able to open seven days a week. “Venues are having to pay significant salary increases to retain their existing staff or they’re going to leave to other restaurants or other industries,” he said. Co-owner of Italian restaurant Tipico Marco Scalisi said his customers would only pay more for cured meats, cheeses and wine because his suppliers – who are importing these items from Europe – are upping their prices. “I haven’t noticed people complaining about the price increases,” Mr Scalisi said. “We have very loyal clientele. They understand.”Mr Lambert said diners should not bank on prices dropping once the border opens to holiday-makers, international students and skilled migrants. “Normally, once wages and prices increase, they stay that way,” he said. However, Best Restaurants of Australia managing director Maureen de Groot is more positive. The industry expert said some hospitality venues may only rise their prices by 5 per cent.“Restaurant prices fluctuate in line with market pricing and inflation. This is not new in our industry,” Ms de Groot said. “Whilst prices my rise short-term, we predict this will regulate once borders reopen and there is an influx of skilled workers.”She is urging Australians to dine out as frequently as possible over the coming months until the workforce is at the “optimum level”. “I have seen Australians bounce back from major global crises and we can do it again,” she said. “People are getting behind small businesses and now we are asking people to keep dining out more than ever.”Mr Lambert is confident consumers will wear the 10 to 20 per cent increase.“Demand in the hospitality industry has never been stronger,” he said.

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