As restaurants continue to navigate supply chain cost inflation, there’s one point of relief they don’t have to worry too much about anymore: the cost of chicken wings. During the pandemic, both wholesale and retail costs of chicken wings soared as demand skyrocketed when consumers were eating more comfort food delivery and takeout.
But now, wholesale costs of wings are down 39% from a $4.10 high in the week leading up to the Super Bowl in 2022, according to Q4 2022 data collected by digital restaurants platform, Toast. In fact, according to Toast’s data, wing costs are down below even 2020 levels, signaling a return to normalcy for the ingredient, which had experienced a surge in demand in 2020 and 2021.
The downward trend of chicken wing prices is in line with what Wingstop reported during during its 3Q earnings call in fall 2022, when Wingstop CEO and president Michael Skipworth said that the company has seen “meaningful deflation” in wing prices, and as a result, the company did not have to increase prices at all in 2022, unlike most of their restaurant colleagues. In fact, the company directly attributed its latest same-store sales growth of 8.7% for the fourth quarter end Dec. 31 to decreasing poultry prices.
The pricing ease of chicken wings is also in line with what experts predicted for commodity costs in 2023, with chicken, eggs, and dairy prices expected to come down a little bit, while beef is expected to pose a pricy problem for operators in the future, David Maloni, supply chain expert at Datum FS told Nation’s Restaurant News in December.
According to Toast’s Q4 data, inflation remains a primary concern for both restaurant operators and guests, though it is getting better. According to the Consumer Price Index, inflation has slowed down to 6.5%, down from its 8.5% peak in mid-2022, but is still significantly higher than 2.5% in pre-pandemic times.
Menu pricing inflation goes hand-in-hand with commodities and labor costs inflation, and that is most prevalent in Valentine’s Day spending data. According to Toast, the average cost of a Valentine’s Day date night nationally has almost doubled from $69 in 2018 to $121 in 2023, though spending has slightly dipped since last year, likely due again to inflation rates cooling off a little. Alcohol sales on the most romantic night of the year have remained consistent, however.
In post-pandemic America, the other consumer spending habit that has changed is tipping culture. According to Toast, during the fourth quarter of 2022, 48% of transactions at quick-service restaurants included a tip, which is up 11% since Q1 2020.
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