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Inflation impacting Denver suppliers, restaurants

According to the National Restaurant Association, wholesale food prices increased by 13.4% from June of 2021 to June of this year.

DENVER — As food prices have continued to rise due to inflation, customers, restaurants and suppliers have all had to adapt.

According to the National Restaurant Association, wholesale food prices increased by 13.4% from June of 2021 to June of this year.

When it coems to restaurants, menu prices rose by 7.7% in the same time frame.

For local suppliers, like Raquelitas Tortillas in Denver, they've also had to adjust.

"It’s hitting everything that we buy," said Richard Schneider, who calls himself the company's "tortilla savant."

Credit: Alex Castillo
Inside Raquelitas Tortilla's at their Denver warehouse.

The domino effect for them he says, starts with the farms they purchase from.

"The price of fuel to get tractors out in the field to. Okay, so you go out and harvest the wheat. Now you've got to take it to the to the grain elevator. You've got to take it to the mill. In this case, the mill. Somebody's got to pick it up and bring it to us," he said. "But when they go beyond a certain point, we have to pass that on. And so here, what does that mean? We pass them on mindfully."

In June, they had to increase their flour tortilla prices by 10%.

"It's never easy to raise prices. You feel like you're taking perhaps an unfair share of the pie," he said.

Right now, he says the restaurant industry still proves to be robust, but that also calls for a word of caution.

"The amount of people eating out, the total dollars spent in restaurants is still very robust, but the operating margins are thinner than ever. And you really got to watch it or you'll lose money at a rate you never dreamed of," he said. "I think there's more opportunities than ever, but you've got to be a significantly better operator than ever. You've really got to if you're watching your food costs quarterly, that may not be enough. You need to be checking literally every week and making those adjustments weekly."

Credit: Alex Castillo
Richard Schneider with Raquelitas Tortillas.

Denise Mickelsen, communications director for the Colorado Restaurant Association, said in a statement that inflation is taking a "dire toll" on local restaurants.

"As escalating food and labor costs decimate already-tight margins," her statement read in part, "wages in Colorado restaurants have increased by an average of 20% since 2020 as well, and even when operators do increase menu prices to offset inflation, the cost of goods regularly outpaces any gains.”

In the case of Hapa Sushi, they're in a position where they're offering a $15 "inflation relief" to all customers for the month of August.

"Our customers support us during the pandemic. You know, we were one of the lucky ones, you know, came through fairly well," said Mark Van Grack, president of Hapa Sushi. "And we wanted to let our customers know that we recognize that inflation is becoming an issue for everybody."

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