Lunchflation is real — and office workers are feeling it

Lunch prices have shot up several dollars due to labor, supply chain, and inflation issues.

The return to the office has been difficult for several reasons — gas prices, readapting to being in public, putting on pants. But there’s another woe on the rise: lunchflation.

As of February, restaurant prices were up 6.8% YoY, per the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s the largest 12-month increase since 1981.

The culprits: Food and labor

The Producer Price Index for all food increased 14.3% between January 2021 and January 2022, while average hourly earnings among restaurant employees jumped 13.2%, per the National Restaurant Association.

Meanwhile, Starbucks announced in February it would have to accelerate its price hikes and cut marketing to make up for increased transportation costs and supply chain issues.

What does lunchflation feel like?

Payments company Square analyzed the cost of lunch staples in major US cities and found significant YoY increases.

  • Wraps: +18%
  • Sandwiches: +14%
  • Salads: +11%
  • Burgers: +8%

The Wall Street Journal spoke with workers who found their usual orders have increased by $4-$10.

Coupled with surging gas prices, expensive food is yet another reason some are hoping to return to remote work. Others lament they’re missing team-building opportunities because they can’t afford lunch out with colleagues.

And while a packed lunch is almost always cheaper than going out, grocery prices are up 8.6% YoY — also the largest increase since 1981.

BTW: CNBC has some grocery-saving tips, including meal planning to avoid waste and changing up your menu to cut back on pricey items.

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