Back to the Office Gets Even More Hellish: ‘Lunchflation is Real’

Not only do you have to leave your home to work again after two cocoon years, food got a lot more expensive out there
202

For office workers in major cities, the going rate grudgingly paid for a takeaway lunch has been roughly $12-$15 for as long as most people can remember. But after two years of working from home due to the pandemic, the cubicle class has returned to the city hives—and they’re finding that inflation has hit their midday meal with a sickening pang. As CNN reports, some call it lunchflation.

It starts with your morning coffee. Starbucks jacked up its prices earlier this year, which seemed particularly ill-willed since they also pumped those prices in October 2021. And the bean-counters may have even more day-wrecking plans in store:

“We have additional pricing actions planned through the balance of this year,” said then-CEO Kevin Johnson during an analyst call in February, via CNN. Johnson cited—you guessed it—inflation.

And then it’s time for lunch. Most office workers have it takeout, but the lunch industry will get you coming or going. Restaurant prices for the sit-down experience rose six percent, according to a January report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, while the cost of takeaway food leapt 7.2 percent from the last year, the Department of Labor reported earlier this month.

Once wallet-friendly chains Little Caesars and Chipotle raised prices this year, as well. Even at McDonald’s, where prices seemed to drop for decades, the cost of their fatty fare grew by six percent, according to CNN.

A simple salad is no bargain, either. The price of the leafy concoctions at wildly popular chain Sweetgreen has skyrocketed a shocking 10 percent since the beginning of 2021, according to the company’s most recent earnings report.

One office worker told CNN that lunchflation is “100% real” and “estimates she spends around $30 to $35 a day on work-related expenses, like lunch, coffee and snack runs and parking.”

And if you were hoping to save a little dough by brown-bagging it, consider the fact that grocery store prices increased 10.8 percent for the fiscal year ending in April. Overall, the price of food was up 9.4 percent in April from the same time last year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Bon appetite.


Stay on top of the latest in L.A. food and culture. Sign up for our newsletters today.