Manitoba restaurants say rising food prices are something they’ve been experiencing for months.
“We’ve been seeing double-digit increases in pretty much all supplies in our industry for a while now due to supply chain issues,” says Shaun Jeffery, CEO of the Manitoba Restaurant and Food Services Association.
But a new Food Price Survey shows costs will surge as much as seven per cent in 2022. Those prices are something consumers and restaurant owners will face.
“How much higher can you pay for a product before you have to start evolving your menu as well?” co-owner of Brazen Hall, Kris Kopansky says.
“It is worrisome for us because we have to find ways to not sacrifice our quality,” he says.
The restaurant association says perishables have been hit with the biggest increases.
“Produce, you’re seeing anywhere between a 10-15 per cent increase. Seafood, you’re seeing 20-30 per cent increases. You’re seeing 20 per cent increases on meat,” says Jeffery.
For Brazen Hall, meat prices are what’s causing concern.
“We’re going to feel the beef crisis, so we are tentative to add high-price items to the menu,” Kopansky says.
But he says changing menu prices would be the last resort.
“Raising the menu prices all the time isn’t an option. It is a necessary evil with inflation but we have to find other ways to do it,” he said.
“The worst thing we want to do is sacrifice the food quality or the portion size and our guest experience.”
Many Manitoba restaurants feel the same and are looking for other ways to save a dollar, according to the Restaurant Association.
“A lot of operators are looking to other things, like their natural gas costs or operational costs,” Jeffery says. “Cutting out things that maybe they’ve had in place or reducing labour costs or operational hours to try to compensate for some of these additional costs.”
Meantime, even though the Food Price Survey shows meat prices are expected to hold steady for the most part, next year, many Manitobans are opting to save a few bucks and skip the deli counter at the grocery store.
Argyle farmer Ian Smith has been selling pork directly to customers for nearly 20 years, and eggs a lot longer than that.
“It’s the customer service that they’re really happy for, and they know who it’s coming from and they know they’re welcome to the farm if they ever want to come and see where the animal is raised.”
Price-point is a factor too.
Smith sells no less than a side of pork or beef per order. Including cutting and wrapping, the cost comes out to $2.20/pound and between $4.50-$5/pound respectively.
In most cases, he also delivers right to the customer’s door.
But Cam Dahl, general manager of the Manitoba Pork Council, doesn’t think price is the main reason people are buying straight from the farm.
“We’re pretty lucky here in Manitoba when it comes to things like access to pork or access to all of the food products. Manitoba is an agriculture-driven province.”
For his part, Dahl expects meat prices to rise somewhat in the new year, largely due to inflation and supply chain issues but he notes Manitoba’s supply chains have proven to be quite resilient.
After not raising his prices for five years, Smith thinks he may have to do that this year following the summer drought and subsequent feed shortage.
But he still encourages people to shop ‘local’ when they can.
“The money you give me stays in this community because I spend it in this community,” Smith says.
“I spend it on the mechanic that’s working on my tractors, the fuel company that’s delivering the fuel, the electrician that comes to me, the plumbers, all these great people.”
“Try and support the local community and us farmers because we’ve just gone through a hard time and next year might not be any better.”