The cost of eating out and ordering in got a lot more expensive in May — along with just about everything else — as spiraling U.S. inflation hit all sectors of the economy, particularly the restaurant business.
The price of ordering food away from home rose 0.7% in May from the previous month, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said on Friday in its latest Consumer Price Index report. That came on top of a 0.6% monthly increase in April. On a year-over-year basis, the food-away-from-home index climbed 7.4% in May — the biggest 12-month change since the period ending November 1981.
Americans who like to have restaurant meals prepared for them faced higher prices across the board, whether they wanted the full-service treatment at sit-down eateries, decided to grab something to go, or opted to stay home and have their food prepared for takeout or delivery by services like DoorDash and GrubHub.
Full-service meals and snacks rose 0.8% on a monthly basis, down slightly from April’s monthly gain of 0.9% but up a whopping 9% from the previous year. Limited-service meals and snacks climbed 7.3% from the previous year and 0.7% on a monthly basis. The latter figure was up from a 0.3% gain in April and the highest monthly increase since February.
About the only thing that got cheaper on an annual basis was the price of food at employee sites and schools. That index fell 30.5% year-over-year, mainly because of a massive 43.5% drop in food prices at elementary and secondary schools amid a widespread increase in free lunch programs. However, on month-over-month, food prices at employee sites and schools rose 0.4% in May after climbing only 0.1% in April.
One reason eating away from home is getting more expensive is because food costs are on the rise. The overall food index rose 1.2% in May following a 0.9% gain the prior month, as the prices of everything from bread and cereal to meats, poultry, fish and eggs saw sharp increases.
Restaurants have responded to higher food costs by hiking menu prices. For delivery services like GrubHub and DoorDash, the problem has been compounded by record-high gas prices. In the case of DoorDash, delivery drivers also recently got a bump in pay, which resulted in higher delivery costs for customers, according to the QuerySprout website.
Overall inflation rose 8.6% in May from the prior year before seasonal adjustments, according to the BLS. That was up from an 8.3% gain in April, which temporarily deflated hopes that inflation in 2022 had already peaked.
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