The Price of Food and Reviews on HappyCow

Comments from a HappyCow visitor, “Geena” on HappyCow reviews:

Being in and around the natural food business on the wholesale side I am on the pulse of wholesale food costs. Dining at vegan establishments around the country I see firsthand the good intentions and dedication to make available cruelty free food to the public.  It is common on veg/vegan sites to see reviewers complaining about the price of the food even when it is very moderately priced.

I shake my head…
Today, December 2009, serving a main course vegan meal in the US under $8.00, that establishment is most probably losing money. Peruse the many World Food Price indexes on the wholesale side and you will be shocked at what took place starting in June 2008. Oils, Grains, Beans and mainly other mainstay menu ingredients spiked to DOUBLE the price.

I recall exactly that one bag of flour that cost $32.00 spiked in one month to $72.00. Canola Oil by the 35 gallon container doubled. Potatoes, an item that rarely moves in price wholesale…
Non Organic 50lb bag went from $9.99 to $17.99 in one week and stuck there.
I and many in the industry saw it as manipulation in the market and everyone jumped on. Many of these products had been purchased by the wholesale distributor at the old price. UNFI did this with many items they shipped across the board and the will never be held accountable. So be it.

Along with that incredible shock UNFI and other large and small vendors serving these establishments added fuel surcharges. UNFI alone was adding $40 to a $1,000.00 or less order. Waste Management and other waste haulers adding $35 per month. Areas of the country such as the Northwest allow power companies, such as PGE, to raise their commercial rates by a whopping 10% every January.  I saw a major grain supplier send out a letter to 100+ more small dining establishments in Spring 2008 urging the owners to raise the prices on their menus “now or perish”. He was being kind and he was dead on.

Add on to this severe drop in business due to the economic disaster and you have many teetering on a precipice.

Add to that states like Washington and Oregon who added a minimum wage hikes instead of helping out and freezing the rate for one year. One owner I spoke with was forced to shed 2 employees and cut service which he was very concerned about. He picked up double shifts himself indefinitely. Municipalities are burdening small business with extra fees on water service (one city $100 per quarter), permits and county health license and inspection are often increasing annually for the first time.

Many owners are going deep into debt today just to keep the doors open… for as long as they can.

Half cooked and poorly presented food, dirty glassware, and nasty service are certainly inexcusable. Venues that allow such will expire from their own undoing. Before people sit down at their PC’s and write reviews on HappyCow they should take a look at the backside of running a specialty restaurant in the extreme economic conditions venues are under at this time.

Recent Poll by USA Today=47% of small business owners are expecting to pack it in mid 2010.

Changes have taken place at some venues… slightly smaller portions, under-staffing. Please, give ‘em a break once in a while instead of jumping on the keyboard. And here we sit, complaining, at the pinnacle of the World food chain.

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