Crab claws, rack of lamb and fillet steaks are among the dishes being dropped from some menus, with price hikes of up to €2.50 per plate being felt in restaurants feeling the heat of inflation.
Restaurateurs, cafe owners and bar owners across Ireland have reported difficulties maintaining profits due to food price inflation, increases in utility bills and a drop in customers as consumers feel the crisis.
Business owners have said they are reluctant to raise prices and remove more expensive items from their menus. They called on the government to introduce stimulus packages to help industry and consumer spending.
Graham Dempsey, director of Davy Byrnes gastro-bar on Dublin’s Duke Street, said: “We are literally in the process of changing our menu. We had a 30 percent increase in our suppliers’ costs.
“And we have to take things off the menu that we’re famous for, including our crab claws, and we’re replacing them with clams for better margins.”
“Crabs have gone up to €50 a kilo. Rib eye steaks are up €6 per kilo. A few things have just skyrocketed, so we need to raise our prices and streamline our menu, eliminating rib eye steaks and crab claws.
“We’re still discussing increases, but it looks like there’s likely to be an increase of €1 to €1.50 per plate.”
Mr Dempsey, along with others in the industry, is calling on the government to keep the VAT rate at 9 per cent. He added that a continuation of the Covid-era Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) would also help restaurants amid the inflation crisis. He said a cap on businesses’ electricity bills was also needed.
“People are still cautious because of Covid and on certain days we are struggling to keep business going,” he said.
“Our food is of a great standard and we don’t like to raise the prices, but inflation and the drop in customers are compelling us to do so. It will be a very difficult time.”
Luca De Marzio, owner of Rosa Madre Italian restaurant in Temple Bar, Dublin, said: “We have no choice but to raise prices.”
He said the restaurant raised its prices two weeks ago, adding €1 to each plate, after meat and fish prices went up along with the power. The restaurateur said the price of black sole has risen to €19.50, while lobster – which cost €22-25 last year – has risen to €37-38.
“As long as people are willing to pay for fresh lobster and black sole, we will buy them,” he said.
“The flour has risen and we are making fresh pasta. We have a factory and saw an increase in flour. This is a big problem because the grain comes from Ukraine.”
Denis O’Mullane is co-owner of Cork’s Café Gusto, which has premises at Washington Street and The Boardwalk in the city.
He said the main problem right now is “not what we charge but what our customers can afford”, referring to inflation hitting consumers and preventing people from eating out.
To offer more affordable options, cafes are reducing menus to “ensure zero waste” and “remove items where the ingredient has become too expensive.” These include crab and fillet steaks.
Frank Schiltkamp, manager of Greenes restaurant in MacCurtain Street, Cork, said while he has not yet increased prices it was likely a plate would go up by around €2.50. But he said this was “the last thing we wanted to do”. He said while there was “no magic bullet” for the industry’s woes, the government could introduce a stimulus package to help consumers eat out.
Trish Murphy, manager of Cookes Restaurant and Wine Bar on Abbeygate Street in Galway, said price increases were evident in restaurants across the city. Meanwhile, she’s noticed a drop in customer numbers in recent weeks. She has developed a 20-euro two-course menu that blasts inflation and encourages customers to eat out.
“It’s hard to justify rising prices when people’s wages are still low,” she said. “The €20 menu means we can keep costs down but give people the option to still dine out and not feel desperate out of pocket.
“We run it Monday to Sunday and a full a la carte offering, but local customers tend to opt for the cheaper option, as do international tourists. And at the same time there is a noticeable difference that customers don’t come that often, even on weekends.
“Saturday night bookings have really gone down. And most bookings are for occasions like hen parties, birthdays — groups of six and 10 — but there’s a shortage of couples and friends who just come for dinner.
“When people are struggling with inflation, the government must also try to help consumers to eat out. A program like the Stay and Spend initiative needs to be brought back, but maybe reconsidered.”
The stay-and-spend scheme was a tax credit to encourage people to eat out during the pandemic.
However, restaurateurs said so Irish Independent a voucher system like the UK has put in place during the pandemic would be more helpful.
Ms Murphy said: “We had to remove a rack of lamb, a fillet steak and crab claws from the menu. They are simply too expensive for customers now.
“It’s very difficult when prices go through the roof.
“Something has to happen quickly, otherwise shops will close.”
Adrian Cummins, chief executive of the Restaurants Association of Ireland, said: “The cost of inflation is having a devastating impact on restaurants across the state.
“The government must make a commitment to the hospitality industry to keep the VAT rate at 9 percent to counteract inflation.
“The Irish people are having an extremely difficult time with rising energy prices and inflation and I think restaurants will be collateral damage as we head into turbulent economic times in Ireland.”
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/why-crab-claws-and-fillet-steaks-are-coming-off-the-menu-in-irish-restaurants-41562287.html Why crab claws and fillet steaks are disappearing from Irish restaurant menus