Agriculture, Columnists, Jon Caldara, Politics, Uncategorized

Caldara: Progressive policies behind Colorado’s rising restaurant inflation

I’m obviously not the only one to notice eating out is getting really expensive, lavish, costly, pricey. Choose your own word.

So, I wasn’t too stunned to find an analysis done by USA Today found Colorado to be first in the nation for “restaurant inflation.” Yeah, us. The price of getting a meal here is going up faster than anywhere else in the country.

That cringe you feel when someone says, “Hey you wanna go grab a bite?” — it now has some research to back it up.

Though not filling us with the same sense of pride of being first in car thefts, we shouldn’t be flabbergasted.

Just as inflation is cooling on the national level, with the latest Consumer Price Index coming in at 3.2%, USA Today reports Colorado’s restaurant inflation clocking in at a mind-blowing 24%.

In case you don’t realize it immediately, that also means the tax and tip on top of your meal out is going up at 24% as well.

I’m rarely looking for a fancy place to eat. I’m a single father, tight on time who, like everyone else, doesn’t wanna cook or clean up and misses having a friendly neighborhood eatery. Sometimes we just want a place like the diner in the TV show “Seinfeld.” But they’re basically outlawed in Colorado.

Why are things so much more expensive in Colorado? It’s not because of high altitude or 360 days a year of sunshine or our fresh mountain streams. It’s because of policy. Elections have consequences, and we have voted to raise the price of eating out by 24% a year.

There’s no rocket science here. And some of those consequences mean not only can’t we afford to go out as often but a lot of those restaurants, particularly mom-and-pop owned ones, are going out of business well before their time.

And unemployed restaurant workers certainly can’t afford to go out to eat either.

What policies make restaurant inflation?

Gov. Jared Polis, under the guise of local control, signed a bill ending the state minimum wage and allowing cities to raise, but not lower, it. So, calling it local control is a fib. It’s only a local one-way ratchet.

Many cities ratcheted up the wage, which sure felt good until it put places out of business. Restaurants are especially sensitive to changes in minimum wage.

Denver’s minimum wage will soon be $18.29 an hour, near the very highest in the country.

Voters passed the family leave initiative, which hits small businesses coming and going. First it puts a nearly 1% payroll tax on employees. Yes, that’s split between employer and employee, but that’s just a marketing ploy.

We, the customers pay for all of it at the end of the meal.

And the program hasn’t even gone into effect paying people not to work when they’re out on leave. It is so luxurious people can take every Friday off every week of the year to care for a nonfamily member and get paid for it — permanent three-day weekends!

The transition costs to train new employees and find part-time temporary employees to fill those vacant spots will be remarkably expensive. And we the dining customers haven’t even begun to pay for that yet. But we will.

And of course, there’s the war on energy jacking up the costs for creating supplies, delivering them and employees to work, not to mention the costs of preparing the food.

You think the cost of running your home appliances are high? Think about a professional kitchen with industrial stoves, refrigerators, mixing equipment and the like under Colorado’s “new energy” pricing.

Sure, prices for food, a prime factor for restaurants, is high. The national average inflation rate for food is around 6%. According to Bureau of Labor statistics, inflation for food is around 7.6% in Colorado, that certainly doesn’t count for 24% restaurant inflation now does it?

But that does make Colorado’s food prices 26% higher than the national average.

There’s been the incredible legislative and regulatory assault on agriculture and ranchers during the Polis years (well beyond Meat Out Day). And it is why food prices are so much higher in Colorado compared to our neighbors. Restaurants must buy that food before they prepare it and serve it to us.

We voted for this proud No. 1 ranking.

So, bon appétit.

Jon Caldara is president of the Independence Institute, a free market think tank in Denver.


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