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Food Inflation Greater at Home than at Restaurants, MUFG says

NEW YORK, NY, (June 13, 2022) – Consumers who purchase food for in-home consumption have generally experienced higher price increases relative to what they pay for menu items at quick-service and fast-casual restaurants—a trend that makes restaurants more comparatively appealing, according to Nick Cole, Head of Restaurant Finance at Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG).

This is one of several key viewpoints in Cole’s mid-year outlook on the restaurant industry, which also includes the abatement of labor shortages, disruptions in the beef supply, high real-estate utilization, and a potential acceleration in mergers and acquisitions (M&A).

Lower food inflation seen at restaurants

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) indicated that the food-away-from-home CPI (restaurant purchases) rose 7.4 percent for the year ended May 2022.1 In contrast, the food-at-home CPI (grocery and supermarket food purchases) was 11.9 percent higher for the year ended May 2022.

“Restaurant chains have been able to achieve lower food-price increases and delay the effect of inflation thanks to a number of advantages they enjoy,” Cole says. Restaurants’ advantages include:

  • access to ingredients at wholesale prices and economies of scale;
  • the ability to lock in lower prices through forward contracts and other hedging strategies; and
  • the flexibility to reallocate ingredients among menu items.

As Cole explains, many restaurants have also been able to sustain profitability by raising their menu prices at agreeable levels to offset the higher input costs of labor, utilities, construction, and food commodities.

Labor shortages less acute

Restaurant labor shortages have stabilized this year, though they still linger and continue to trigger disruptions, according to Cole. Food-delivery drivers are in particularly short supply, impacting delivery-intensive restaurants such as pizza chains.

“Large online retailers attracted a significant amount of labor at restaurants’ expense during the pandemic, yet many of the jobs they filled require little training and are designed for high turnover,” Cole adds. “Therefore, we believe the restaurant industry will be able to pull back many workers with the right mix of incentives.”

Beef supply, real estate utilization, and M&A

Additionally, Cole notes the following top industry trends:

  • Disruptions in the beef supply are putting related restaurant businesses at risk because of the longer cycle of beef gestation, cultivation and ultimate provision, as opposed to such commodities as poultry and fish, which are characterized by a shorter supply cycle.
  • Restaurant dining venues have returned to full capacity, yet chains continue to benefit from having retooled their real estate and technological infrastructure to accommodate drive-through traffic and online orders.
  • M&A activity slowed in the first quarter because of margin pressures due to rising commodity prices, workforce shortages, and the need for higher expenditures to attract labor, as Cole and his team had anticipated in November 2021 —yet they expect M&A activity to pick up as the year progresses.

About Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Inc.’s U.S. Operations including MUFG Americas Holdings Corporation

The U.S. operations of Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Inc. (MUFG), one of the world’s leading financial groups, has total assets of $332.4 billion at March 31, 2022. As part of that total, MUFG Americas Holdings Corporation (MUAH), a financial holding company, bank holding company, and intermediate holding company, has total assets of $159.2 billion at March 31, 2022. MUAH’s main subsidiaries are MUFG Union Bank, N.A. and MUFG Securities Americas Inc. MUFG Union Bank, N.A. provides a wide range of financial services to consumers, small businesses, middle-market companies, and major corporations. As of March 31, 2022, MUFG Union Bank, N.A. operated 297 branches, consisting primarily of retail banking branches in the West Coast states. MUFG Securities Americas Inc. is a registered securities broker-dealer which engages in capital markets origination transactions, domestic and foreign debt and equities securities transactions, private placements, collateralized financings, and securities borrowing and lending transactions. MUAH is owned by MUFG Bank, Ltd. and Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Inc. MUFG Bank, Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Inc., has offices in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Peru, Mexico, and Canada. Visit www.unionbank.com or www.mufgamericas.com for more information.

About MUFG (Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Inc.)

Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Inc. (MUFG) is one of the world’s leading financial groups. Headquartered in Tokyo and with over 360 years of history, MUFG has a global network with approximately 2,400 locations in more than 50 countries. The Group has about 170,000 employees and offers services including commercial banking, trust banking, securities, credit cards, consumer finance, asset management, and leasing. The Group aims to “be the world’s most trusted financial group” through close collaboration among our operating companies and flexibly respond to all of the financial needs of our customers, serving society, and fostering shared and sustainable growth for a better world. MUFG’s shares trade on the Tokyo, Nagoya, and New York stock exchanges. For more information, visit https://www.mufg.jp/english.

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1. Latest data available at the time of release. Source: The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, https://www.bls.gov/news.release/cpi.nr0.htm