Menu prices

Growth in menu prices ticked higher in October

The Consumer Price Index for Food Away from Home increased 8.6% between October 2021 and October 2022, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). That was up slightly from an 8.5% increase in September, and represented the strongest 12-month gain since 1981.

Grocery store prices also continued to rise in October, albeit as a somewhat slower pace compared to recent months. Grocery store prices increased 12.4% between October 2021 and October 2022 – the 8th consecutive month of double-digit gains. This was down from a 13.5% increase in August, which represented the strongest 12-month gain since 1979.

Overall consumer prices rose 7.7% between October 2021 and October 2022 – the 4th consecutive month of decelerating growth and smallest 12-month increase since January. The core CPI (which excludes food and energy prices) increased 6.3% between October 2021 and October 2022 – down from a 6.6% gain last month.        

Within the food-away-from-home sector, fullservice menu prices outpaced growth in limited-service prices in recent months. Fullservice restaurant menu prices rose 9.0% between October 2021 and October 2022 – nearly 2 full percentage points above the 7.1% gain in prices for limited-service meals and snacks.

Elsewhere in the food-away-from-home sector, the price index for food from vending machines and mobile vendors jumped 11.2% between October 2021 and October 2022. That was sharply higher than the 7.2% increase in September, and 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 95.2% between October 2021 and October 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.

Fullservice and Limited-service Menu Prices

On a regional level, the Midwest region (10.0%) registered the strongest menu-price gains between October 2021 and October 2022. Average menu prices in the West (8.5%), South (8.4%) and Northeast (7.7%) regions rose at 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.