This latest chart from the Nation’s Restaurant News is surprising on several levels. First, look how low those check amounts are! It must include, like, value meal breakfasts from McDonald’s or whatever, because we certainly haven’t spent less than, say, $9 on a meal since we were in high school, and our average dinner bill is probably in the $30 to $50 range. We will admit to being outside of the normal range, but by an order of magnitude? Hot.
Second, we’d bet the ranch that these figures have not been adjusted for inflation. Let’s just assume they haven’t, because it will make our observations more interesting, as improbable as they may be. If the average check in 2002 was $5.65 and $6.23 in 2007, well…adjusted for inflation, the 2002 figure is $6.64 in today’s dollars. And this during a period of unprecedented food price inflation that’s far outstripped the CPI? We are skeptical. Maybe the survey’s figures are adjusted for inflation, after all.
Suffice it to say, the average meal price is going to continue to rise, and probably at a much faster rate than in the past. At the low end, meal prices are intimately tied to those of the raw ingredients, and it does not appear that they will fall any time soon. With developing economies driving demand and ethanol taking a bite out of supply, it’s going to be a rough ride ahead.