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Anyone else noticed any recent price hikes on Boston chow?

finlero Jun 4, 2008 09:44 AM

Looks like cost of ingredients is trickling down. A few price hikes I've seen this week:

* Small subs at Al's State Street have gone from $4.50 to $5 even. I believe the large went from $6.50 to $7.

* Banh mi at 163 Vietnamese Sandwich have gone from $2.50 to $2.75/$3 depending on the sandwich. Not exactly bad value, to say the least, but still noteworthy.

Anyone else notice any price increases around the city?

  1. TomH Jun 4, 2008 09:47 AM

    I know this isn't "in Boston" bit I did notice some significant increases on the menu at Lil' Vinny's in Somerville on my last visit. Some entrees are up four or five dollars.

    1. hiddenboston Jun 4, 2008 09:54 AM

      I'm seeing increases all over the place. Some are small, some are big, but it's definitely becoming a trend. No surprise, considering the rise in commodities...

      1. Prav Jun 4, 2008 10:19 AM

        The NY times has a fascinating article today detailing how restaurateurs (in NY) have been dealing with increased costs of raw materials. Some of the levels of inflation in staple items (rice, flour, even tofu) were quite dramatic.

        1. f
          Fenway_Frank Jun 4, 2008 11:23 AM

          Whole Food seems to have raised their prices on sushi and some of their lunch items - the adobo turkey chimichanga used to be $3.99 and it's now $4.99

          1. BarmyFotheringayPhipps Jun 4, 2008 11:41 AM

            The bahn mi at PhoViet went up to $3.25 recently. The horror. Still the best lunch value in town. In fact, think I'll go get one right now...

            1. Chrispy75 Jun 4, 2008 12:08 PM

              I've noticed recently at Rod Dee that their rice plates have shrunk in size. No change in price, but a quarter less food, which is kind of a bummer.

              1. ipsofatso Jun 4, 2008 02:07 PM

                Yup, across the board, from Chinese buffet at Mandarin Reading to the cost of a pizza at the local neighborhood joint. Costs more to grow it, ship it and prepare it. No surprise there.

                1 Reply
                1. re: ipsofatso
                  Infomaniac Jun 4, 2008 02:24 PM

                  And if your driving, it cost more to get where ever your going.

                2. hotoynoodle Jun 4, 2008 10:03 PM

                  i work for a restaurant group. all of us are trying to not raise prices, but our costs are going through the roof. in one week, 5-gallon containers of frying oil went from $16 to $58. 50-pound bags of flour went from $18 to $60. 50-pound bags of sushi rice also tripled.

                  lemons now cost 65 cents each, when last year they were about 20 cents. any idea how many cases of lemons we use in a week? lol.

                  most fish has doubled or tripled in price in 12 months.

                  between the ethanol debacle, the australian drought and the price of fuel, things are dire.

                  "I've noticed recently at Rod Dee that their rice plates have shrunk in size. No change in price, but a quarter less food, which is kind of a bummer."

                  chrispy-- i don't know how big their portions were previously, but i bet they were huge. try to think about not feeling entitled to "left-overs'. this is nothing against you, but a pet-peeve of mine. diners demand big portions, yet i see so much food go in the trash.

                  voluntary reductions anybody?

                  ~~rant over~~

                  sorry.

                  19 Replies
                  1. re: hotoynoodle
                    hiddenboston Jun 5, 2008 05:57 AM

                    hotoynoodle, I totally understand where you're coming from on this. It is a very tough time for the restaurant industry right now, especially in such high-rent cities as Boston. I'm surprised that more restaurants haven't been closing over the past few months, but I fear that this may indeed happen if commodity prices don't start coming down.

                    1. re: hotoynoodle
                      s
                      skoenigsberg Jun 5, 2008 06:55 AM

                      Really? Diners aren't entitled to leftovers??

                      I don't know, hotoynoodle, but if I'm used to paying a certain price for a certain portion size, I expect that not to change unless the price changes or there's a note on the door or the menu referencing food and fuel prices.

                      I definitely eat out more often because I can justify the prices by having a second meal the next day. Were all the leftovers to go away, I'd have a harder time feeling good about how often I ate out (several nights a week). If I don't want leftovers, then I look for a half-portion of pasta or order a bunch of appetizers together for dinner.

                      Maybe it's different because you work in the industry, but there is also something super-fun about having leftovers in the fridge to look forward to. Cold hanger steak beats the heck out of my usual work-at-home lunch of (roughly) eight wheat thins, peanut butter, olives, banana, a couple marshmallows and a handful of chick peas.

                      1. re: skoenigsberg
                        hotoynoodle Jun 5, 2008 11:32 AM

                        a note on the door? if macy's raises it price for shoes, must they post a sign?

                        i'm not saying left-overs aren't *fun* or whatever, but you feel entitled to 2 meals for the price of one? do you see the flaw in the logic there? many many people simply throw all that food away and it's a waste.

                        1. re: hotoynoodle
                          jgg13 Jun 5, 2008 11:44 AM

                          Its not "2 meals for the price of one", its "we serve X amount of food for $Y".

                          There are two ways to increase profits:
                          - the obvious (to the customer) way: Raise Y
                          - the hidden way: Decrease X

                          Doing the second unannounced is a bit skeezy because its not clear to a returning customer that they're getting less value for their money all of a sudden.

                      2. re: hotoynoodle
                        Bob Dobalina Jun 5, 2008 08:25 AM

                        I don't really understand how the staples could increase that much, that quickly. Fuel prices have not tripled that quickly, so why the end result? Is this an effort at gouging?

                        Makes me more and more happy to be a member of a CSA.

                        1. re: hotoynoodle
                          jgg13 Jun 5, 2008 08:37 AM

                          The "the portions were too big anyways" argument is crap. Its just a sneaky way of increasing prices. I don't mind that portion sizes are made smaller, but to act as if it is anything *but* trying to sneak attack a price increase is absurd.

                          1. re: hotoynoodle
                            Allstonian Jun 5, 2008 09:07 AM

                            I had the same thought about the comment about portions shrinking. There was a rundown here recently from a visitor from the UK, who was shocked by the enormous portions everyplace - I'd much rather see prices hold firm and portion size shrink a bit.

                            1. re: Allstonian
                              jgg13 Jun 5, 2008 09:25 AM

                              Some of us more "robust" people always wonder WTH people are talking about when they say a place's portions are "oversized" or "enough to feed two people" when we manage to down the whole thing plus more stuff and want more.

                              OTOH I'm lacking the robustness to say the same for the truly supersized portions at places like the cheesecake factory :)

                              1. re: Allstonian
                                BarmyFotheringayPhipps Jun 5, 2008 10:00 AM

                                Relating to this, I once had a friend visiting from the UK whose first visit to an American supermarket apparently quite jangled her sensibilities. For the rest of her visit, she would say at random moments, "but nobody NEEDS a twenty-pound watermelon!"

                              2. re: hotoynoodle
                                g
                                Gordough Jun 5, 2008 09:45 AM

                                Not denying your claims but I find it hard to believe that food products have gone up 300% in ONE WEEK. Maybe in the last year or two but 300% in one week is absurd even during these difficult times.

                                1. re: Gordough
                                  hotoynoodle Jun 5, 2008 11:30 AM

                                  if they get a price hike from the flour company, the wholesaler passes it right along to the restaurant. shake your head in disbelief as much as you like, but these are the facts and our chefs are in agony about food costs.

                                  1. re: hotoynoodle
                                    Infomaniac Jun 5, 2008 12:01 PM

                                    I thought this was an interesting article about Sal's Pizza lowering their price on their 19" pizza a dollar for a limited time to give customers a break on rising prices.
                                    http://pizzasandstuff.blogspot.com/20...

                                  2. re: Gordough
                                    Anon12 Jun 5, 2008 01:52 PM

                                    National Geographic did a piece on the sudden food shortage in May: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/ne...

                                    There are a number of factors contributing to shortages and higher prices - argo businesses growing corn instead of wheat, corn being allocated to ethanol fuel instead of food, flooding in places like Bangladesh that wiped out an entire rice crop. Add that to supply-stores that suddenly hit a low level and the prospect of future supply shortages and I imagine that suppliers of grains and other foodstuffs might suddenly raise their prices, hedging against even worse news to come.

                                  3. re: hotoynoodle
                                    Chrispy75 Jun 5, 2008 12:01 PM

                                    No, the portions were never huge, but they did leave me feeling satisfied. It's funny that you say, "i don't know how big their portions were previously, but i bet they were huge." Too funny.

                                    1. re: Chrispy75
                                      hotoynoodle Jun 5, 2008 05:33 PM

                                      funny, ha-ha, i guess, because american portions are staggering, so it's a very easy assumption to make. now you're saying they only satisfied you, where earlier you said it was enough to bring home.

                                      in no other country do diners expect to get more food than they could/should finish at a sitting.

                                      1. re: hotoynoodle
                                        j
                                        jes Jun 5, 2008 06:43 PM

                                        well the way i see it the issue isnt whether or not theres food to leave to take home as leftovers but if im used to ordering dish X for $$ and its always been enough for two meals and thats what I'm expecting when I order it. Suddenly I order dish X from the same restaruant for the same price and te portion is half what it used to be, I'm probably going to be angry and feel taken advantage of when it comes.

                                        1. re: jes
                                          TomH Jun 5, 2008 09:08 PM

                                          Agreed. I hate to be the engineer that I am but it is X for Y. If suddenly X decreases or Y increases I should be notified either way. Plain and simple.

                                          1. re: TomH
                                            finlero Jun 6, 2008 10:39 AM

                                            I'll respectfully disagree here. As long as a restaurant is clearly displaying its prices, I don't see any ethical obligation to notify its customers explicitly of either price increases or portion reduction.

                                            That said, there are certainly some cynical things a restaurant could do to piss me off, such as raising prices AND reducing portion sizes at once, or trying to pass off a portion reduction as a selling point ("Now with 30% fewer calories!"), but realistically, these aren't likely to happen too often.

                                            While I don't expect it, I do appreciate it when a restaurant posts an advance notice of price hikes ("Due to the increasing cost of ingredients, we will be raising our prices as of 6/1.").

                                            Personally, although I think American portions are absurdly large, and agree that a lot of food goes to waste, I'd still much rather see a restaurant raise its prices instead of reducing its portion size. Tinkering with portion size is changing the product; whether we're talking about food or cars or computers or plastics, a product change of any kind is inherently going to test my trust.

                                            1. re: finlero
                                              TomH Jun 9, 2008 06:50 AM

                                              I agree that I would rather see higher prices than smaller portions because at least you are aware of the increased price on the menu. When a place reduces portions it just comes across as sneaky to me which, like you said, would test my trust as well.

                                  4. BeantownHound Jun 4, 2008 10:19 PM

                                    Hotoynoodle, you need to shop your prices! It is true though that almost all goods have been going up for restaurants, also including a fuel surcharge. AP flour was 12 or so dollars a year ago, now running closer to 25. Portion cut halibut is 19 per pound wholesale. Restaurants get higher prices on their goods, and then in turn have to make up for that by charging more. Boston is a difficult market to make it in, rent is high, we have a small population to sell to in comparison to other big cities, and people don't go out no matter what (think about a snowy day, or a nasty rainy day), where NYC diners might be more apt to hop in a cab and go out to eat. Damn you recession!

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: BeantownHound
                                      t
                                      treb Jun 5, 2008 07:29 AM

                                      Most estabs buy from places like Sisco etc., hard to shop around. I don't mind paying more as long as the quality doesn't deterortate. Get use to it, unless we convince our reps to start drilling.

                                    2. u
                                      uwebres Jun 5, 2008 07:37 AM

                                      Just a note speaking as a working chef. At our restaurant, we have been resisting raising prices as long as we can. But the price hikes on wholesale goods just about cover every product now. In addition to the "fuel surcharges" on every invoice. Unless you buy everything from one giant company and get only one delivery a week, you are looking at a few thousand dollars a year in surcharges. Normally, beef (lobsters also, but for most places they are loss leaders)prices go up predictably through the summer as retail demand increases overall usage. This was known, factored into overall menu pricing. But now butter is more than double the price in January, fryer oil is through the roof etc.... If prices level off soon we won't have to raise prices, but if we have to we have to.

                                      1. p
                                        phoebek Jun 5, 2008 09:32 AM

                                        I'm not good at remembering exact prices, but over the past few weeks, we've noticed both price increases and/or portion cuts.

                                        1. Miss Needle Jun 5, 2008 02:05 PM

                                          Not only have I noticed increasing prices or smaller portions, some places have actually posted signs saying that their prices are going up. Personally, I prefer it that they are upfront with me.

                                          1. BobB Jun 10, 2008 09:01 AM

                                            Clear Flour bakery raised all their prices recently by 10% - 15%, but I don't hold it against them, with the price of flour going up there's nothing else they could do.

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