When we spend more for gas and more for our groceries something has to go. "Sales are down in restaurants in the state of Missouri based on the fact that people have less money in their pockets," says the Missouri Restaurant Association’s Pat Bergauer, who points to a survey that says 36 percent of the people whose discretionary income is reduced by higher fuel and food prices are likely to cut back on eating out or traveling very far to a restaurant.

When people do go out, she says, they often go to a cheaper place. "They go down a notch when discretionary dollars are lessened," says Bergauer.

On the other side are the restaurateurs who are paying more for their food because of increased commodity and transportation costs. They’re also paying more for the people who fix and serve the food. Bergauer says they’re caught in the pinch of higher overhead and lower customer turnout. She says they’re carefully reviewing their menus, perhaps offering slightly smaller pieces of meat, or substituting other foods for more costly items.

Bergauer says chain restaurants are facing the same pressures independents face plus the need to satisfy stockholders. "When we see restaurants closing, we see chain operators having to close their units, (too)" she says.


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