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Wisconsin Restaurants Buck National Trend

Falling Grocery Prices Mean Fewer Customers At Restaurants Across Country, But Not Here

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Across the country, the price gap between eating out versus at home is widening. As restaurant prices go up, grocery prices have gone down.

A recent survey of average grocery prices in Wisconsin showed a decline of 8 percent. But Wisconsin Restaurant Association CEO Ed Lump said they’re not losing customers who’ve chosen to eat at home instead.

“People don’t just go to restaurants because of price,” he said. “They go there for service, relaxation, ambience, for a different kind of food.”

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Lump said low grocery prices generally aren’t a problem for restaurants in the state. What is a challenge, he said, is finding employees. Both the restaurant and dairy association have called for immigration reform to reduce the shortage of workers.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the cost of food at home declined by 0.1 percent in September, while the price for food away from home went up 0.2 percent. Lump said there are several reasons for the price gap.

“First of all, restaurants don’t have the ability to buy in volume like grocery stores do, for the most part,” he said. “And they also generally are buying the highest quality products that they can get for what they (are) serving.”

Lump also said restaurant prices tend to lag behind grocery prices at both ends. Restaurant prices go up more slowly, he said, and they come down more slowly.