Food inflation has ‘gotten out of control’

Food inflation has ‘gotten out of control’

Wolfgang Puck says the luxury dining industry is feeling the pinch of inflation.

In a recent interview with Yahoo Finance, the world-renowned Chef and restaurateur, broke it down point-blank saying, “some of this thing has gotten out of control.”

“The average cost now in our restaurants for food is up 15%, which is a lot,” adding that some other costs like equipment to prepare the food are also on the rise.

“I bought the other day cutting boards, for example, for one restaurant I bought 12 cutting boards, I spent $1,500, and then a week later, it went up to $2,000,” Puck explained.

In general, Americans are feeling the pinch. The overall cost of food cost is up 11.2% compared to last year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) September Consumer Price Index (CPI) while the food-at-home category, groceries, was up 13.0% year-over-year, and food away from home increased by 8.5%.

(Courtesy: Wolfgang Puck Corporate Melrose)

(Courtesy: Wolfgang Puck Corporate Melrose)

For restaurateurs though, the cost of food is only the tip of the iceberg. Wolfgang Puck says the cost to upkeep the dozens of restaurants, bars, and lounges under the Wolfgang Puck Fine Dining Group umbrella costs more now.

“Forget about if there’s something to repair in a restaurant, just to get somebody out to come and fix your stove or your refrigerator, it costs a fortune, so everything has gotten up,”Puck said.

Then, add the cost of staff’s salary to the restaurants’ bottom line with employees having the upper hand.

“It’s really a buyer’s market in a way,” Puck explained. “The employee said, I want that much money, and I will work that many hours and that many days, so it has gotten more difficult for us,” confident in the talent in his restaurants, he adds, “but we have to navigate all these problems and go through them.”

In the month of September, the total number of jobs in the leisure and hospitality sector was still below pre-pandemic levels by 1.1 million, or 6.7 percent, but employment in food services and bars did increase by 60,000 last month.

With restaurant locations across the globe including in New York City, London, Singapore, Budapest, among many others, he says the problem is not centralized to one city or country.

“It is really difficult, but it’s a worldwide phenomenon,” Puck said. “We have Spago in Budapest, for example…It’s as difficult in Budapest as it is in New York or in LA to recruit people, and I think, thank God, we have a good name and we pay well, so we still can get people, but it has gotten more expensive.”

At one restaurant, Puck says a sommelier who used to be paid a $100,000 plus commission salary confronted him with a competing offer for $130,000 per year, asking if it could be matched.

Wolfgang Puck responded, “you know what? I will match it because I like you and you are good to the customers.” Weighing the options he had at that moment, Puck added “but also, for me to train somebody new would cost me more than $30,000.”

Despite inflation up 8.2% last month, the chef believes “the luxury segment is still there.”

“People still have money to spend,” he said. “Maybe they go out less maybe, but not that much really. I know in Las Vegas, we have restaurants in Las Vegas, it’s booming, it’s better than ever and I’m sure the hotels, the gaming is doing better than ever, because we get the customers if they lose enough money,” jokingly, he added, “they have to eat and to drink.”

Brooke DiPalma is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter at @BrookeDiPalma or email her at

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