Over at a Denver-area Red Robin restaurant, the Keep It Simple burger costs $13.49, or nearly $15 with tax.
That’s up 31% in a little more than three years, based on old menus posted at restaurant review site, Yelp.com, showing the same no-frills burger at $10.29 in May 2020.
It’s not just Red Robin. A lot of burger joints are getting unwanted attention because of their higher prices, with some consumers sharing their shock on social media. It’s also not just burgers. The cost of eating out at a restaurant in Colorado has increased 28.2% since January 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index. Menu prices have gone up at most Colorado eateries, and restaurant owners don’t really like to talk about it.
But one can still find a solid burger at a full-service restaurant for under $15. The Cricket Burger at The Cherry Cricket in Denver is $11.50, up 30% since 2021, the restaurant confirmed. Fries are still $4 but now there are two sizes: a half order and full size, which is $6.
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“Continuing to provide a delicious product to our guests at a value is paramount to us at the Cherry Cricket. We’re always very hesitant to increase our prices,” Calley McCue, president and chief financial officer for Cherry Cricket’s parent company, Breckenridge-Wynkoop, said in an email. “That said, the dramatic increase in (the cost of goods sold) and labor costs that we’ve seen over the past two years have, unfortunately, necessitated increased prices in order for us to keep operating.”
The Colorado Restaurant Association & Foundation gets a lot more specific. Earlier this year, the industry group, which has 4,900 member restaurants, put together its own guide to why the price of an average burger has increased to $15.
Restaurants have seen an increase of 54% in the cost of labor, 55% for utilities and 20% for equipment and maintenance. The price of beef? Up 43%. Cheese? Up 79%. And lettuce? Up 85%.
How much the cost of eating out at a restaurant in Colorado has increased since January 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index
For restaurants to make the same margin on burgers that they did in 2020, they’d have to charge $22 .
“Inflation has had a huge impact on menu prices across Colorado, as has the annual increase of the minimum wage,” said Denise Mickelsen, a spokeswoman for the industry association. “The cost of running a restaurant continues to skyrocket, and with typical industry profit margins sitting at a slim 3% to 5%, operators don’t have a lot of wiggle room when food, alcohol, energy, labor, taxes and more continue to climb. It all leads to higher menu prices, streamlined menu offerings, limited hours of operation and operator burnout.”
In October, the restaurant association polled its members about prices. Based on the responses, customers can expect prices to continue to increase next year. About 86% of members who responded said they planned to increase menu prices when the minimum wage goes up 5.6% to $14.42 an hour on Jan. 1. Six out of 10 said they’ll have to cut hours or shifts for their teams.