Menu prices increased 8.6% during the last 12 months
The Consumer Price Index for Food Away from Home increased 8.6% between April 2022 and April 2023, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). That represented the 9th consecutive month with 12-month gains of at least 8%, but was down slightly from an 8.8% increase in March.
[Note: The 8.6% increase in the overall food away from home index was higher than the increase in both limited-service prices (8.2%) and fullservice prices (7.2%). That was due largely to a 131% increase in the price index for food at employee sites and schools, which is described in more detail below.]
For the second consecutive month, the Consumer Price Index for Food at Home declined on a month-to-month basis: a 0.2% dip in April followed a 0.3% decline in March. That resulted in a 7.1% increase in grocery store prices between April 2022 and April 2023 – the smallest 12-month increase since December 2021. While still elevated in historical terms, the 7.1% increase represented a welcomed departure from a year-long period of double-digit gains – including a peak increase of 13.5% in August 2022.
Overall consumer prices increased 4.9% between April 2022 and April 2023 – the 10th consecutive month of decelerating growth and smallest 12-month increase since April 2021. The core CPI (which excludes food and energy prices) increased 5.5% between April 2022 and April 2023, which was more than a full percentage point below the recent peak of 6.6% registered in September 2022.
Within the food-away-from-home sector, growth in limited-service menu prices outpaced the fullservice segment in recent months. Prices for limited-service meals and snacks increased 8.2% between April 2022 and April 2023. That represented the strongest 12-month increase since the beginning of this data series in 1997.
Fullservice menu prices were up 7.2% between April 2022 and April 2023. That was down from an 8.0% increase in March and represented the smallest 12-month gain since January 2022.
Elsewhere in the food-away-from-home sector, the price index for food from vending machines and mobile vendors jumped 14.7% between April 2022 and April 2023. That represented the 7th consecutive month of double-digit gains on a 12-month basis.
Meanwhile, the price index for food at employee sites and schools soared 131% between April 2022 and April 2023. This component had been significantly dampened for much of 2021 and 2022, which BLS attributed to widespread free school lunch programs. As these programs expired, many students went from paying nothing to paying regular prices for school lunches. This is resulting in sharp year-over-year increases in this price index. Even though this component holds less than a 2% weight in the overall food-away-from-home index, the recent strong growth rates are inflating the overall Consumer Price Index for Food Away from Home. This will continue until the base effects run their course.
Within the price index for food at employee sites and schools, BLS separately reports data specifically for food at elementary and secondary schools. This component jumped 296% between April 2022 and April 2023, as a result of the normalization of school lunch prices. However, this large growth rate is mostly meaningless, as the percent increase is coming off a very small base.
On a regional level, the West region led the way with a 9.5% increase in menu prices between April 2022 and April 2023. Average menu prices in the South (8.5%), Northeast (8.1%) and Midwest (7.9%) regions rose at somewhat lower rates during the last 12 months.
Track more economic indicators and read more analysis and commentary from the Association's chief economist Bruce Grindy.