Carius: Inflation puts pressure on menu prices, Bloomington-Normal restaurateurs | Food and cooking

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To raise or not to raise menu prices is a topic restaurant owners often bring up when I do interviews for my Bloomington-Normal Restaurant Scene Facebook blog. No, I am not a restaurant guru who can magically help them with an answer, but I am a willing listener with whom they can vent their frustrations with the costs that are rising almost daily in the restaurant industry. . And many of them will say that they have already raised their menu prices once, maybe twice, and are now perhaps considering a third time or more.

These days when you see a new menu in a restaurant, the new menu may not be on the table because it replaces a very worn menu that needed to be replaced, but the new menu may have been needed to reflect price increases.

I often hear about the cost of certain foods having doubled or tripled or, as a restaurant owner recently told me, she had a food cost that had quadrupled. Of course, as consumers, we know that overall restaurant food costs have gone up because most of us have seen our favorite grocery store and our grocery bill go up. And high gas prices and other inflationary increases will likely continue to drive up restaurant costs and our costs.

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Restaurant owners say they are already operating with a very slim profit margin due to the effect of the pandemic on the restaurant industry over the past two-plus years. And, now, with what appears to be a faster rise in costs, they’re struggling to find the menu price point where they can raise their menu prices while still bringing customers in through the front door. What is this price? That is the question.

From Larry’s Notebook

• Arby’s — The store at 1240 E Empire St., Bloomington, recently closed after 40 years. The franchise rep told me the lease was up and the decision was not to renew. The restaurant was Bloomington Arby’s first and BN’s second. The first restaurant in this location was a Sandy’s Drive-In which opened in 1959. Then I remember it was a Bucky’s Drive-In for several years and a White Kitchen before Arby’s opened in 1982 .I can’t wait to see which restaurant will be next to this location.

Famous Dave’s Bar-B-Que — It recently closed after 22 years. The franchisee rep, Peoria-based Mercedes Restaurants, told me that the Bloomington restaurant hadn’t been profitable for some time, so they decided to close. In addition, the lease will expire at the end of this year and they did not plan to renew it. He cited the effect of COVID and staffing issues as major contributing factors to the closure.

Some may recall that Mercedes Restaurants first opened Sonoma Cucina at this location in 1994 and operated it for six years before replacing it with Famous Dave’s. By the way, Sonoma Cucina was one of Kay’s favorite BN restaurants.

Teddy’s tap — The owner told me that personnel problems and the inflationary economy caused the closure of the LeRoy business.

Brass Pig Smoke & Alehouse – The restaurant served 22,207 Notorious PIG 16-hour smoked pork butt sandwiches in the two years since it opened on Memorial Day weekend in 2020. Managing partner John Solberg told me that the Business was excellent at the downtown restaurant and growing daily.

Hacienda Leon — The new fully renovated bar room is beautiful, in my opinion. The owner told me he was only planning to redo the back bar area to make it more convenient for bartenders when he ran into some issues and decided to gut and redo the whole bar. He added that customers now often choose the new bar as their first choice of seating.

Creamery with cold stones – It recently opened in College Plaza in Normal after moving from The Shoppes to College Hills. It shares the building with Five Guys.

• Indian Grocery and Butcher Bloom Bazaar — It recently opened in the Prospect Center at 503 N. Prospect Road in Bloomington and has what the owners say is the largest Indian fresh meat market in central Illinois, offering goat, lamb, seafood and chicken in the display case. Some halal and organic meats are available.

• Restaurant Destihl — A $450,000 kitchen and bar renovation was recently completed, and the patio was rebuilt last fall at a cost of $175,000. My Opinion: The lighting in the renovated bar/patio is very, very nice, and I would suggest visiting it at dusk or after to see the full effect of the lighting.

A favorite menu item of Larry — The Coney dogs at Dewey’s Drive-In in Farmer City. I get mine with mustard, relish and onions.

Carius, of Bloomington, is a former food program and plan review supervisor for the McLean County Health Department. His Facebook blog, Bloomington-Normal Restaurant Scene, has 34,000 followers.

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