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Pizza Prices

When I was growing up in Brooklyn in the 70's I remember walking home from school and stopping at a local Pizzeria and we'd always get a pepperoni slice and a cup of soda. It was $1. Even when I first moved to Westchester in the mid-80's I could go and get a slice and a can of soda for $2. Today I went, got a slice and a bottle of lemonade, handed the guy $10 and he handed me $4 back. $6 for a slice and a drink? Where do they get the nerve to charge that much? Oh and back in the 70's the pizza was actually good!

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  1. Minimum wage in the 70's was 65 cents.

    It's two slices and a drink for $6 in San Diego.

    1. It's called inflation and that price for your lemonade and slice sounds about right.


      30 Replies
      1. re: ipsedixit

        I completely understand the concept of inflation but it still only costs about $1.75 to make a slice pie. Maybe $2 with pepperoni. So is it crazy to try and make $34 on one pie? In my opinion yes.

        1. re: jhopp217

          Well 1.75 in 2010 is 0.66 in 1980. http://data.bls.gov/cgi-bin/cpicalc.pl

          And, really, how do you know it costs "only" 1.75 or 2.00 to make a slice of pie? I'm not saying you are wrong, I'm just curious where you get your numbers.

          1. re: ipsedixit

            Yes, I wonder how one comes up with such a uniform estimate of allocating overhead, labor and waste to the costs of the ingredients themselves.

            1. re: Karl S

              Of more concern (and perhaps morbid curiosity) is whether the OP is making more now (in 2010) than s/he did back in 1980, or 1970.

              And let's hope that the OP does not believe that the buying power of $1 has held constant for the past 30 or 40 years ...

              Greenspan may be intoning the coming of years of deflation, but still ...

              1. re: Karl S

                The standard restaurant formula is to cost out the ingredients in a recipe, divide by number of portions, then triple that amount to cover labor and overhead. If I remember correctly from my schooldays. Then you mark it up accordingly, depending on whether you want a 12% profit as in fast food, or 35% for high end. Something like that, anyway there IS a standard formula.

                1. re: coll

                  There is no way that a high end restaurant makes a 35% profit on a dish. Not a chance in hell.

                  1. re: bookhound

                    That was the high end we learned, of course they were probably talking about Per Se (not that they existed then). I think we were supposed to aim for 20 to 25%. Hey this was school, not the real world!

                    1. re: bookhound

                      And given that labor and overhead costs tend to vary much more than ingredient prices, the ratio approach to get to break-even is also pretty creaky.

                      1. re: Karl S

                        Yeah just a starting point, I never got far enough in the restaurant business to actually cost out a menu myself. I remember the teachers warning us about LILCO's rates at the time, so there are definitely variables, but this is almost 30 years ago and it's sort of fuzzy to me. Good way to put yourself out of business if you only go by this basic formula and don't really know what you're doing, based on life experience.

                      2. re: bookhound

                        "There is no way that a high end restaurant makes a 35% profit on a dish. Not a chance in hell."


                        Well, to be fair to coll who quoted that number, the 35% margin probably includes a combined number for food an drinks, both alcoholic and non.

                        1. re: bookhound

                          "There is no way that a high end restaurant makes a 35% profit on a dish. Not a chance in hell."

                          Depends what the "dish" is. It's not about one item, it's about all the items and what they'll average out to be. But, highly unlikely a high end restaurant will make a 35% across the board.

                          I'd wager to say most mom and pop pizza places have no idea what their cost for a slice of pizza is or how to calculate it.

                          1. re: monku

                            "I'd wager to say most mom and pop pizza places have no idea what their cost for a slice of pizza is or how to calculate it."


                            Having grown up, literally, in the back of "mom and pop" places (not pizza, though) I can assure that that is not accurate.

                            1. re: ipsedixit

                              I've seen the books for all kinds of restaurants and mom and pops are the worst.
                              No wonder mom and pop type restaurants have the highest rates of failure. You see two or three employees on the books and you see six to eight others working the restaurant....they can't all be family. They think if they've got more money in the drawer than they started with they've made a profit.

                            2. re: monku

                              I worked for a mom and pop pizza joint when I was in college in the early 70s. You can be sure they knew their costs to the penny. Nothing went to waste. Bacon was always precooked to use on pizza, and the bacon fat in the roasting pan (from a 20# case of bacon) was always used as the base of cooked tomato sauce for grinders, cheaper than oil.
                              The owners shopped the produce market every day for the best prices on vegetables. They'd buy bottled and canned sodas on sale at supermarkets to resell (at prices less than the bottlers offered small accounts).
                              Dough was made, and then portioned and weighed. The maximum overage allowed was 1/8th ounce. Owner had a coffee can by the register and every beer bottle cap had to go into the can. The wife then checked caps, against sales and inventory in the fridge.
                              In those days, the retail price was 5X cost. It cost 60 cents to make a small cheese pie which sold fro $3. On Wednesdays the same pie was sold for 99 cents, still at a profit.
                              BTW, that mom and pop managed to put 4 kids through college and grad school and retire at age 60 debt free.

                              1. re: bagelman01

                                Good for them.
                                I'm sure they're the minority.

                                Anyone that thinks they're a good cook thinks they can open a restaurant.
                                I've seen many owners go through hundreds of thousands of dollars thinking they had a great idea for a restaurant.

                                1. re: monku

                                  That's the truth! So many people think dreams come true like a fairy tale, and go through their, and other people's, money like water. They should all work for someone like bagelman01 first and learn how to control their costs, whether that extreme or not. And find a great accountant to watch over them too. Food is fun but selling it is a business, first and foremost.

                                  1. re: monku

                                    Actually, they were a MINORITY, one of the ethnic groups from the eastern end of the Mediterranean who dominated the restaurant business in the northeast for the last 40+ years.

                                    1. re: bagelman01

                                      Yes, they're in a minority in more ways than one.
                                      Brilliant keeping track of the beer bottle caps....watch the pennies and the dollars will follow.

                              2. re: bookhound

                                Why wouldn't you think so? Remember, when s steakhouse dry ages their steaks, it doesn't mean they cost more than when they buy them. I would suspect a porterhouse for two at Peter Luger which is between $85-90 cost them about $25. So what's the profit? Almost $400 percent. I'm not including overhead, just cost of product. What about a la carte places that charge $9 for a potato?

                                1. re: jhopp217

                                  The restaurant might make 35% profit on the dish itself but the restaurant doesn't only account for the food, add in rent, labor, insurance, and everything else and they are lucky to clear 10% - 15%.

                                  There was an article in the NYTimes a few years back and it told of how Daniel Boulud has an account for each of his restaurants and if gross margins drop off below 10% a forensic accounting is done. That is a pretty low margin for any business.

                                  Beef prices have skyrocketed since everyone is now interested in eating prime beef. I have no idea what Peter Luger pays per pound for their meat and I'm guessing you don't either.

                                  1. re: bookhound

                                    Interesting little dig, but if you've been to Luger's lately, you'd know the price of their porterhouse has dropped (and I doubt they are lowering it and paying more). But you knew that I'm sure.

                                  2. re: jhopp217

                                    That poster is referring to a 35% profit after all expenses.
                                    Profit is all your expenses and food costs for a place like PL is more likely to be 30%+. Very few places can sell a baked potatoe for $9. What about the free bread and other things? Everything averages out in the end. The steaks are probably their largest expense. They probably make a good profit because they own the properties.

                                    FYI if a restaurant can make a net profit of 10% they're doing well.

                                    1. re: jhopp217

                                      if you are not including overhead, you are not actually figuring out the mark up based on real numbers.

                                      1. re: thew

                                        Those are the people who think they can make a killing in the restaurant business.

                                      2. re: jhopp217

                                        What increase the cost in this case is the need for a much bigger inventory, at any time, you need steaks in your inventory that will be sold only 20 days from now, some that will be sold 10 days from now.. and so on + the space needed for the infrastructure that allows you to dry age the meat properly.

                                        This by itself carry a cost which needs to be factored in the price your paying.

                                        1. re: westaust

                                          The other expense of dry aging is the shrinkage which can be up to 18%.
                                          Figure an inventory of $100,000 in prime meat the loss from aging alone is almost $20,000 before you even serve the steak.

                                    2. re: coll

                                      Well, assuming that the pizza place the OP visited was aiming for a 12% profit and again assuming the retail price of the pizza was $5 (minus the soda's price which assuming was $1), then the "cost" of the slice of pie would have to be in the range of something like $4.40 or thereabouts, right? Or do I have my math wrong?

                                  3. re: ipsedixit

                                    I know four pizzeria owners. It's in the ball park of that for a plain slice pie (Yes it went up about two years ago when flour went through the roof, but it came back down...the prices didn't).

                                    1. re: jhopp217

                                      Prices are heading dramatically back up due to crop failure in Russia, which is withdrawing wheat from global markets. Expect flour and baked goods to be pricey come the holidays.

                                      1. re: jhopp217

                                        Well, then, it must be asked how much are those "four pizzeria owners" of yours charging for a slice of pie?

                                2. The price of everything is going up, in some cases astronomically. Just the other day I paid six samolians for a bundle of asparagus and boy was I pissed.

                                  1. Or for that Price, you can go to Little Caesar's, get one of their $5 pizzas, then to McD for a any-size-for-a-dollar soda or lemonade or whatever, and if you don't want the whole pizza, the birds will love you!

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. I remember dollar slices! After our favorite place let us down a few times, ($20 delivery pies) I started making my own. The whole (organic) pizza with our favorite toppings probably costs $4 to make. It's a fun family activity, everybody helps decide on toppings and load up the pie.

                                      During the real estate bubble, the rent costs for small businesses got out of hand, plus they have to pay high credit card fees.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: MCFAC

                                        I remember when a loaf of bread was 5 cents and a haircut was 10 cents.yadda yadda yadda". Now it is minimum wage, insurance, rents, ingredient costs...all up,up,up!!!!!!

                                        Really, though..... I do remember when the U.S.Dollar bought 4 Deutschmarks!!!!!!!

                                        1. re: MCFAC

                                          Dollar slices still exist. There are a few in Manhattan.

                                        2. If you're still in NYC, I'm sure the rent has gone up a lot faster than inflation for the pizza joint. Down here in South Florida, you can still get a slice and a can of soda at some places for $2.50, but at the best place in town a huge slice and a fountain drink is $4 with tax.

                                          1. That seems like a stretch. I only paid $4.50 for a plain slice and large fountain soda at my local place in Bay Ridge. It could be worse, you could be paying $10 for everything if you went to a mall or DiFara's

                                            1. Growing up, Louis Prima in Elizabeth NJ was $1.60 for a cheese pie, yup pie (early 70's), not slice. Now jfood pays $2 for a slice and $12-15 for a pie. C'est la vie. Pizza is one of jfood's favorites and it is still a buy.

                                              10 Replies
                                              1. re: jfood

                                                J we're showing our age again....................
                                                In New Haven, at Sally's Small $1, Medium $2 Large $3
                                                In our Westville Neighborhood Pepe's (a nephew of Wooster St, Small 85 cents Med $1.50, Large $2.00
                                                On weekends when we went into NYC to see the grandparents:
                                                In the Bronx, a slice at Snack Time at Valentine and Fordham was 50 censt, a fountain soda was 15 cents.
                                                In Brooklyn at the other grandparents, a slice near the McDonald Ave EL was 25 cents, soda was 10 cents.
                                                And the subway ride from the Bronx to Brookly was 15 cents, and the seats were rattan.

                                                These prices circa 1965.

                                                  1. re: jfood

                                                    Wow. Krystals at that time were $0.12 and sometimes on special 10 for $1. To be dainty, I'd let my BF have 6 and I'd take the measly 4 :)

                                                  2. re: bagelman01

                                                    Small plain at Johhny's Apizza/Venice Restaurant on Dixwell Ave: $.90. Single scoop cone at Marioni's ice cream $.06. Spalettes (sub rolls) hot out of the oven at Lupi Legna bakery, $.05. Two movies plus cartoons at the air-conditioned Dixwell Theater. $.25.

                                                    1. re: junescook

                                                      Yes, But at the Dixwell, Westville, Howard, Whitney and Whalley, the owner Meyer Bailey (who also owned the Schubert downtown) jacked up the candy prices to 6 cents............Only 5 cents at the Strand.
                                                      He also had a habit of turning off the air conditioning 20 minutes after the film started.

                                                      I was lucky, I always had a stack of the blue radio passes good at those theatres, so only had to pay for concessions.

                                                      To this day I feel gipped that there's no cartoon or double feature.

                                                      And who can forget the ice cream cone at the theatre with a flat top and a square of white paper to protect the ice cream from the concession girl's hands.

                                                      1. re: bagelman01

                                                        Hey, bagelman, I would say all the dishes we used every day came from the Dixwell Theater. My mother would take me every Tuesday night (the neighborhood was too scary for a woman to go out alone, and I think maybe we got two dishes with one adult and one child). But I do remember the green and the yellow ones especially.

                                                        1. re: bagelman01

                                                          Not to mention that every piece of our every day dishes came from the Dixwell Theater. My mother used to take me there every Tuesday night. Even thought it was only a half a block away, it was not really safe even then for a woman to be walking alone late at night there. Tuesday night was dish night and I guess we each (?) got a dish, I remember some with big yellow flowers and green leaves. I think she used them until the day she died. Of course the movies were also where you got to see the newsreels of things like the war in Korea.

                                                          1. re: junescook

                                                            Right next to Sterling-Susman...............

                                                            1. re: bagelman01

                                                              Or else Harry Flaxman's Highwood Pharmacy.

                                                              1. re: junescook

                                                                and today (and the last 30+ years) the Dixwell Playhouse is Columbia Upholstering/Mattress

                                                  3. Well, since everyone is walking down memory lane here, my recollection is from the early '50's, when my Dad would give me a quarter on Saturday eve and I'd walk to the local movie house. For .20, I could sit in the balcony and watch a double feature. Then at the foot of the steps while departing the theater there was a drugstore and soda fountain where I could get a frosty mug of root beer for the remaining .05.

                                                    Times change.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: johnb

                                                      My Granddad was a young man in Chicago during the Great Depression- he used to talk about how he could take his best gal out on the town for a steak dinner with champagne and a night of dancing, and still have enough change from his $2 to ride the streetcar home.

                                                      Times change indeed!

                                                    2. Costco food court.
                                                      $2.55 for a large slice and unlimited soda.

                                                      5 Replies
                                                      1. re: monku

                                                        Best deal around, and the slices are huge.

                                                          1. re: coll

                                                            Preliminary reports are not all that "wowed". Doesn't matter-he packs his places on his fame.

                                                            1. re: monavano

                                                              I guess Costco is pretty famous, and packed. Just didn't think for pizza!

                                                        1. Do you realize that you're talking about 30 to 40 years ago? I remember in the 60s thinking that if I ever made $1k/mo that I wouldn't know how to spend it all!

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: c oliver

                                                            Less than 10 years ago, almost every pizzeria on Long Island was selling whole pies for $3.99. And still making good money. Then the cheese prices skyrocketed for awhile, and then the flour, which has since come down. They all thought they'd go out of business if they raised their price, but eventually they had to anyway. We were eating pizza once or twice a week, you couldn't make anything yourself cheaper I don't think. Maybe that's when I put all this weight on?

                                                          2. What was worth $1 in the mid-1970s cost $4 last year if its value tracked the CPI.

                                                            But Brooklyn had more competition that Westchester, so its pricing was probably tighter.

                                                            You pays more for the privilege of living in the wealthier suburban counties...

                                                            1. Just one of the reasons that folks like us have started making their own pizza at home. Make a large pie for less than the the price of a slice.

                                                              6 Replies
                                                              1. re: grampart

                                                                i'm always curious about this sort of comment. just ahd a long discussion on anotehr website about it.

                                                                that's true for every food - you can make it cheaper at home. the reason one goes out to eat isn't because of the price point is it?

                                                                1. re: thew

                                                                  In the case of pizza, what you make at home can be much, much better than what is offered "out".

                                                                  1. re: grampart

                                                                    I guess it depends on where you live and where you get your pizza.

                                                                    1. re: bookhound

                                                                      I grew up in NJ and started eating pizza in the early 50's. I never considered making my own until I moved to Florida in 1979. I "made do" with the local stuff until the middle 90's when I began "making my own" by throwing sauce and cheese on a Boboli and calling it pizza. Publix dough replaced that along with a few donations from local pizzerias. Noticing how much easier the "real" dough handled and tasted, I started making my own dough in an older, hardly used bread-machine (dough cycle).

                                                                      The dearth of good pizzerias grew when we moved to NE Georgia in 2006. My ingredients, my equipment, and my skills have improved and I think I can safely say that my pies are now as good or better than anything available within close to a 50 mile radius (note: Jeff Varsano in Buckhead not included). I still use a bread machine for my dough and our oven is just a normal electric that can get up to 550+.

                                                                      In the last 5 years, many folks have enjoyed my pizza and a whole lot of them are from NJ. They say I've spoiled them and that their hometown favorite pizza joint doesn't seem so great anymore. No big surprise; pizza joints have to make hundreds of pies a week and I (on a busy week) make 6. My dough is a 3-4 day refrigerated rise; theirs probably isn't. My sauce is at least as good, probably much better and I tailor my cheese choice to each pie. They're done to order and they cost way less than the "competition".

                                                                      If you have a wonderful source for pizza that satisfies and economics don't enter in to it, then you are a lucky person. If you prefer some kind of artisan/old-world pizza that must have special flour, fresh San Marzano tomatoes, the mozz made from water buffalo, and it all needs to cook in a wood-fired 1000 degree oven in less than 2 minutes...........then you're probably gonna have to travel for it and pay $20+ for an individual pie. If you really enjoy good pizza, you can make it in your own kitchen. After all, in spite of those charging outrageous prices ($5 for a plain slice) that would like you think otherwise.....it's not brain surgery.

                                                                      1. re: grampart

                                                                        As you said I have wonderful sources for pizza near my home so I'm very lucky. There are close to a dozen very good pizza restaurants within a 30 minute walk from my home. Neapolitan style, straight New York Style, and the hybrid style.

                                                                2. in the 70's i paid $400 for a 2 bedroom apartment in boston.

                                                                  what's your point?

                                                                  1. The eighteeen dollar goat cheese and pesto pizza from the place around the corner is worth every penny and far cheaper than a trip to the emergency room.

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: beevod

                                                                      I've paid close to $30 for a pizza and been very happy, but I didn't realize the alternative was so violent.

                                                                    2. When I was a kid this all used to be fields and, as Plato said, "the kids of today have no respect for their elders".

                                                                      Then again, he plagiarised that from Hesiod.

                                                                      1. Here in Toronto, the ubiquitous PizzaPizza offers various slices at $2.49 each (they're about 1/6th of a large), and a can of pop is $1.10. With tax, that's a little over $4. Doesn't sound that outlandish to me, when you consider my first new car in 1975 was only $3,500.

                                                                        1. 1 slice and a soda in central PA is probably around 2-4 depending on the price of the soda. On special nights it's 1.25 :) Sometimes it pays not to live in the big cities.

                                                                          1. Another data point here, from Indianapolis. I don't know of any real slice places in town but a cheese slice from a grocery store will cost about $2. And it won't be any good. Costco is probably the best you'll find here and I think it costs $2.50 for a massive slice and a drink.

                                                                            1. Spike's (Top Chef) We The Pizza in DC recently opened and slices are $4.