New Jersey Restaurant Owner Reflects on Rising Food Costs

I’m sure you’ve noticed that things are getting more expensive.

Whether it’s your weekly grocery bill, fueling up or going out to dinner, one thing is clear.

Everything is way more expensive these days in the Garden State.

I was walking with my wife on the boardwalk last night and as we were planning our weekly meals we kind of realized that the cost was about the same to eat out every night as it was to buy a grocery week. .

And one of them is a much easier option!

Our grocery bill for the two of us, if you’re curious, went from about $80 a week to $130 a week.

The cost of meat being the big culprit.

According to a NJ.com article the cost of chicken is up about 300% from just a year or two ago.

In the article, Anita Amin, the owner of Masala Bay in Somerset NJ, said the cost of her chicken had gone from $27 for a forty pound bag of chicken to $108.

That’s a crazy increase!

It got me thinking, how is inflation affecting other local restaurants in Toms River, and what are they doing to try to combat it?

One of my places to go for lunch is Capone’s in downtown Toms River.

Probably once a week I head for a grilled chicken BLT wrap, it’s so good.

Photo: Bühler

Photo: Bühler

Last week, I thought I’d ask Jimmy, the owner of Capone, how he handles these crazy prices and what he’s doing to try to fight it.

So how is inflation affecting restaurants in Toms River?

Last Friday, I went to Capone’s to talk with Jimmy, and as I rounded the corner from the busy back dining room, I heard a scream coming from the kitchen.

“Just back here with you in a second, I just need to wrap this up!”

It was Jimmy, packing freshly grilled chicken in a hotel skillet.

He said the first thing they do in the morning is grill 40 pounds of chicken for the day, seeing how it’s used in a lot of their dishes.

As Jimmy and I started talking he made it clear that yes the chicken is getting a lot more expensive and it’s a balancing act to make sure it doesn’t all come back to the customer.

Currently, Jimmy said his cost has gone from a few hundred about a year ago to three hundred for his chicken now.

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

I was floored.

It’s nothing he said.

He went on to say that some restaurants that got specialty cuts of chicken were paying over $500 per shipment of chicken.

Jimmy said that wasn’t the only thing that really changed.

Paper bag availability, you know those white paper bags your hoagie comes in?

Those too are few and far between right now.

So how do you fight rising prices?

Jimmy said it’s all a balancing act; if he were to raise the price of my grilled chicken BLT wrap to $15, that might scare me away.

However, increasing the price by a dollar or so slowly over time is going to keep me coming back, while helping to counter rising costs.

Luckily he said a lot of regulars and customers like me get it and are happy to pay a little raise knowing they are getting a good meal.

What can we do as consumers?

The easiest thing we can do is to A.) ​​be patient and B.) continue to support our local restaurant scene.

It’s not Capone’s fault that things cost more, or Taco Tastic’s fault, or Water Street Grills’ fault, or Crave’s fault.

Photo by amirali mirhashemian on Unsplash

Photo by amirali mirhashemian on Unsplash

They just try to keep providing you with a good meal while trying to keep their doors open.

There is some good news though

As Jimmy and I wrapped up Friday, he said (albeit jokingly) there was good news;

The cost of chicken wings has gone from $42 a box to $84 a box, and recently dropped to $74 a box.

It’s not a huge improvement, but it’s a step in the right direction, isn’t it?

What food prices have risen the most in New Jersey

What food products have seen their prices increase? And by how much? Let’s find out: