Limited-service segment continues to drive menu-price growth

Menu prices increased 3.9% between December 2019 and December 2020, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That was essentially unchanged from the 12-month gains during the previous three months.

On a regional level, menu prices posted the strongest growth in the West (5.2%) and Northeast (4.3%) regions. Menu prices increased 3.4% in the South region and 2.9% in the Midwest.

Growth in menu prices continues to be driven by the limited-service segment. Prices for limited-service meals and snacks jumped 6.0% between December 2019 and December 2020. That marked the 10th consecutive month of accelerating growth, and was more than three percentage points above the 2.7% gain in February.

In comparison, fullservice restaurant menu prices rose 3.0% during the 12 months ending December 2020. This represented the ninth consecutive month with 12-month gains of 3% or less. In the months leading up to the pandemic, fullservice menu-price growth had surpassed the 3% level for the first time since 2014.

In comparison, grocery store prices were up 3.9% during the 12 months ending December 2020. That was nearly two percentage points below the 5.6% spike in June, which represented the high-water mark during the pandemic. Overall consumer prices rose 1.4% during the last 12 months.

Track more economic indicators and read more analysis and commentary from the Association's chief economist Bruce Grindy.