Menu prices increased 8.3% during the last 12 months
The Consumer Price Index for Food Away from Home increased 8.3% between December 2021 and December 2022, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). That represented the second consecutive month of decelerating growth after peaking at 8.6% in October – the strongest 12-month gain since 1981.
Growth in grocery store prices also slowed in recent months, though still remained elevated in historical terms. Grocery store prices increased 11.8% between December 2021 and December 2022 – the 10th consecutive month of double-digit gains. That was down from a 13.5% increase in August, which represented the strongest 12-month gain since 1979.
Overall consumer prices increased 6.5% between December 2021 and December 2022 – the 6th consecutive month of decelerating growth and smallest 12-month increase since October 2021. The core CPI (which excludes food and energy prices) increased 5.7% between December 2021 and December 2022, which was nearly a full percentage point below the recent peak of 6.6% registered in September 2022.
Within the food-away-from-home sector, fullservice menu prices outpaced growth in limited-service prices in recent months. Fullservice restaurant menu prices rose 8.2% between December 2021 and December 2022, while prices for limited-service meals and snacks were up 6.6%. Menu-price gains in both segments were down from the growth rates posted earlier in 2022.
Elsewhere in the food-away-from-home sector, the price index for food from vending machines and mobile vendors jumped 14.8% between December 2021 and December 2022. That represented the strongest 12-month gain since BLS began reporting price data for this segment in 1998.
Meanwhile, the price index for food at employee sites and schools soared 130% between December 2021 and December 2022. This component had been significantly dampened for much of the last two years, which BLS attributed to widespread free school lunch programs. As these programs expired in some parts of the country, many students went from paying nothing to paying regular prices for school lunches. As a result, this price index rose sharply in recent months, which put upward pressure on the overall food-away-from-home index.
On a regional level, the Midwest (8.8%) and West (8.6%) regions registered the strongest menu-price gains between December 2021 and December 2022. Average menu prices in the South (8.2%) and Northeast (7.3%) regions rose at lower rates during the last 12 months.