Our Inflationary Snack Times

The cost of food ingredients is surging, thanks to a combination of unprecedented global demand and federal ethanol mandates, which channel corn crops into fuel. It’s squeezing New York City’s restaurants: snackflation!

SNACKFLATION: Three months ago, the “Bistro Burger” went up 75 cents, and an order of fries rose 50 cents.

“There’s just continuous pressure,” says manager Harold Wedick, noting that, in the last three months, a dozen rolls went from $1.60 to $2.75 and the price of five-pound bags of fries rose almost 50 percent. “Our meat hasn’t been affected yet,” he adds. “But our butcher just sold his building, I heard. If we have to get a new butcher, our meat costs would increase.”

SNACKFLATION: A bagel cost $1.20 two weeks ago, and $1.10 a few months ago.
The Upper West Side noshery uses only high-gluten flour, which typically costs 300 to 350 percent more than it did a year ago, and sometimes hits 400 percent more, says staffer Dominic, who wouldn’t give his last name. “We get affected by droughts in Russia and Australia,” he says. “Climate change, y’know? But it’s Wall Street, too. Hedge-fund guys get into commodities, and wheat goes up.”

Photo: Corbis

SNACKFLATION: Up from $3.25 earlier this year.
“Eggs and sugar are through the roof,” says Judy Adler, co-owner of the Upper East Side institution. “It’s crazy.” Their flour went up 50 percent in the last six months, soybean oil and sugar 25 percent, and eggs about a third—but the cost is worth it, she says. “We use natural, farm-fresh eggs. And, well, if eggs double in price but we use natural eggs that taste twice as good as the fake stuff, that works itself out.”

SNACKFLATION: Price rose a quarter this month. “It’ll be $2.75 anytime now, and probably $3 by summer,” says owner Joe Pino.
A cheese slice at the Carmine Street pizzeria is 90 percent flour, 5 percent cheese, and 5 percent tomato. “Flour is the real culprit here,” says Pino—in the last six months, he says, his price rose 250 percent. But his cheese costs are up 20 percent, too.

Photo: Superstock

SNACKFLATION: No increase recently, “but we may have to soon,” says co-owner Alan Rosen.
Brooklyn’s most famous cheesecake is made of 70 percent cream cheese and a combination of heavy cream, eggs, sugar, and vanilla. In the last year, says Rosen, cream cheese prices are up 13 percent, sugar 16 percent, and his eggs 300 percent. (“Chicken feed is more expensive because it’s all corn and stuff like that.”) “Even if we go from $5.75 to $5.95,” he says, “it’s still better than a latte, you know?”

SNACKFLATION: None yet. “But I’ve only been at the new location since December 17, and it’s been nothing but up and up and up with the costs,” says owner Jeremy Lebewohl.
In three months, he says, his corn oil is up 40 percent, flour (for noodles) 75 percent, and even matzo meal has risen 25 percent. “A butcher, they can change prices every day,” Lebewohl says. “A restaurant, you can’t do that. And whatever happens, I’m not going to increase prices right after reopening our doors.”

Have good intel? Send tips to intel@nymag.com.

Our Inflationary Snack Times