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Real Restaurant Costs


Out the Door feels the squeeze, and passes it on to
their customers.

The news reports keep rolling in: prices for everything (gas, rice, corn, organic chicken feed) are on the rise and the dollar just keeps getting weaker. It’s becoming a serious problem for restaurateurs in San Francisco, and a reality I explored in our April food feature. But the reports keep rolling in—Blowfish Sushi just said the price of rice oil (which they use to make tempura) has almost doubled in the last week, and predict that rice-based products, like sake, are sure to rise soon. Add to this all the other costs associated with running a restaurant in this city and it paints a bleak picture.

By now it's old news that some restaurants have started adding surcharges to their menus to cover some of the rising costs (like the universal health care). Other restaurants, like the Slanted Door, have chosen to simply raise prices. I’m a frequent visitor to Out the Door, where I religiously order their lemongrass tofu (if you haven’t tried it, you must—it’s one of the best lunches out there). Last week, I ordered the usual and the server told me that the dish no longer comes with rice—it's now an additional $1.50. I’ll admit that at first I wasn’t thrilled (what previously was a $10.50 lunch is now a $12 splurge), but  it’s hard to fault a restaurant for trying to stay in business.

Several days later, while eating at Pizzeria Delfina, I heard a group of tourists ask their waiter about the mysterious surcharge that had appeared on the bill (Delfina is one of the restaurants that has opted to be more transparent about rising costs.) I listened to the waiter patiently explain the surcharge, then waited to hear what the customers would say. “Health insurance? Well, I think that makes sense.”

Rising costs and surcharges seem here to stay. What do you think?