As the cost of almost everything continues to move higher, sometimes on a weekly basis, New Jersey restaurants are looking for creative ways to deal with inflation so they don’t have to dramatically increase prices on the menu and scare away their customers.

Dana Lancellotti, the president of the New Jersey Restaurant and Hospitality Association, said that with higher labor and delivery costs, supply chain issues and prices shooting higher for all types of food, especially for meat and seafood, restaurants are shifting and pivoting all the time.

“Some are increasing some of their prices, but some are also choosing to take things off the menu that are going to be just too high priced and they do not want their guests to have to pay that kind of cost,” she said.

She said certain restaurants have also started passing along the fees they are charged by credit card companies.

Pay with cash, save a few bucks

“They’re giving people the notice that if you use your credit card there is going to be an extra fee, you have the option to use cash then,” she said.

Tim McLoone, who owns 11 restaurants, said there have been price increases in almost every food category but he’s reluctant to raise prices on regular entrees.

“So when people are coming in and there’s a special for a certain steak, they’re going to accept the fact that it might actually cost them $50, $60 to do that, but on the day-to-day hamburger, things like that, we have really not changed,” he said.

Grass Fed Bison Hamburger with Lettuce and Cheese
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McLoone said the vendors he has been dealing with for years have done everything possible to try and hold the line on price increases and he is making the same effort in his restaurants.

He said some price increases have been unavoidable.

“You get a thing where people really like Chilean sea bass, and all of a sudden the word goes out it was over-fished and the price goes up $10 a pound and you know, it gets crazy.”

McLoone said his team is also considering raising the price of using a credit card but so far no final decision has been made.

Lancellotti said restaurants are charging a service fee that is added onto the final bill.

“They’re pivoting, they’re figuring out ways that they can cut costs and be able to be flexible with their menus,” she said. “What we have been saying to our businesses all along is please just be sure that you make it transparent to the public.”

Lancellotti said if a restaurant does decide to add a flat service fee, “make sure the extras fees are mentioned prior to their purchase."

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David Matthau is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at david.matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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