Augusta Economy

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Food cost expected to rise

Eateries, stores, public watch expenses closely

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Since 2007, Rhinehart's Oyster Bar had held firm on its prices.

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Tim Clay prepares a burger at Fat Man's Café in Enterprise Mill.   Zach Boyden-Holmes/Staff
Zach Boyden-Holmes/Staff
Tim Clay prepares a burger at Fat Man's Café in Enterprise Mill.

Last week, however, the seafood restaurants in Augusta and Evans were forced to bump up some of their prices, owner Amy Bailey said. The changes weren't drastic -- as low as a few cents to as much as 50 cents -- but were necessary not to lose money on certain items, she said.

"It was probably a 1 percent increase because we had to do it," Bailey said. "It was really miniscule, but we needed that little edge. I don't anticipate us doing it again for a long time."

As food costs continue to rise, restaurants, grocers and food companies are signaling they will start to pass along price increases to consumers, something that many have been reluctant to do as the economy continues to be stagnant.

The Consumer Price Index recorded a 1.4 percent increase in food prices from September 2009 to September 2010, the most recent data available. That's greater than the overall rise in inflation, which stands at 0.8 percent over the year -- minus food and energy items.

Companies such as Kraft Foods, McDonald's, Sara Lee and General Mills have said they will raise prices, and grocers such as Kroger have said they will pass along those higher costs for brand-name items to consumers.

Among the food index, the measurement for meats, poultry, fish and eggs rose 4.7 percent over the 12 months before September. Dairy and related products climbed by nearly 3 percent, while fruits and vegetables saw a slight increase.

The cereals and bakery products and non-alcoholic beverages categories recorded slight price decreases in the index.

Bailey said she was reluctant to raise prices because of the sluggish economy. The largest increase she instituted was 50 cents for oyster dishes. Before waste, her oyster costs have increased since last year from 43 cents each to 57 cents each, she said.

Restaurants also need to look at eliminating menu items that lose money and improving the quality of food, Bailey said.

"You can't just be cheap. People need to know that the food is good," she said.

Havird Usry, the general manager at Fatman's Café in Augusta, said he recently had talks with his food distributor about rising food costs, but the restaurant hasn't raised prices yet.

"There is definitely some worry out there, and the adjustments are tough," Usry said. "If something goes up and it seems semipermanent, that's when we have to start making pricing changes on the menu. You can't go around and change a menu all the time. It's something that you have to work on."

At the grocery store, more consumers are willing to cut back and switch to private labels, according to a study this year by consulting and research firms Deloitte and The Harrison Group.

The survey found that 92 percent of respondents had made changes to their buying since the recession began. Eighty-four percent said they had become more precise in what they buy.

As she shopped Friday at Augusta's Washington Road Kroger, Kim Rich sorted through coupons. She said prices are important to her and she would notice a change of as little as 5 cents on an item she regularly buys.

Garrett Fulcher, the owner of T's Restaurant in Augusta, said he said he has to shop around more to help keep prices level.

"Everybody is budgeting as much as they can," he said.

Consumer food prices changing

Increases from September 2009 to September 2010, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price Index:

Eggs - 11.3%

Pork - 10%

Milk - 6.5%

Coffee - 1.5%

Poultry - 1.4%

Fresh fruits and vegetables - 1%

Bakery products - 0.4%

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bree026
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bree026 11/13/10 - 04:42 am
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I need some food stamps.... I

I need some food stamps.... I wish I could get a $100.00 per month.. it would help..

211lover
6
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211lover 11/13/10 - 08:36 pm
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go join the gypsy camp, they
Unpublished

go join the gypsy camp, they drive brand new BMW's,Mercedes benz's and brand new trucks and all have food stamps, how do i know, I work at a grocery store in NA and you would not believe how much they get in foodstamps, one day I want to go videotape it and show everyone their scam, oh and after they buy their steaks and junkfood on foodstamps they wear the western union (money launder machine) out by sending thousands to pay bills, send to friends and help their scamming counterparts operating in other states, verify? Sure , Riley, Sherlock and Carrol are their last names, and sometimes in reverse order. They live in Murphey Village and live in house's only we can dream of. How do they get away with it? I suppose the state does not inspect the 1000 sherlocks, 3000 rileys and 5000 carrols currently on foodstamps. The Chronicle could make one hell of a story on this if they actually did an investigation, I would be willing to help so long as I am not ID'd by my employer, because they love the Gypsy's!

augusta citizen
10951
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augusta citizen 11/14/10 - 03:39 pm
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Food prices "expected" to

Food prices "expected" to rise? They already are rising.

corgimom
53592
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corgimom 11/14/10 - 08:44 pm
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211Lover, you aren't telling

211Lover, you aren't telling anything that any North Augusta resident doesn't already know.

dougk
3
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dougk 11/14/10 - 09:42 pm
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I just got in from dinner at
Unpublished

I just got in from dinner at Rhinehart's. Amy Bailey needs to realize that's it's not the rise in menu prices that is going keep me away from there...and apparently a whole lot of other people considering the crowd there tonight, but it's the pompous, smart alecky wait staff and the slowest kitchen in town. Certainly was NEVER was the case just several years ago.

Chillen
17
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Chillen 11/14/10 - 09:49 pm
0
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Better stock up folks! If

Better stock up folks! If inflation goes up by 5% in the next year you are better off using your money to buy food & items at today's prices because you sure can't "earn" 5% on your money any other way these days!

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