Andrew Gruel, chef and owner of the seafood restaurant Slapfish in Southern California, argued on Tuesday, shortly after the release of new inflation data, that the report depicts numbers that are “a little bit watered down” based on his own anecdotal evidence as a restaurant owner.
“What I’ve seen over the past 12 to 18 months, is I’ve seen inflation that has doubled, tripled sometimes the numbers that have been presented to us as a country,” Gruel told “Cavuto: Coast to Coast” on Tuesday.
Gruel made the comments shortly after it was revealed that inflation accelerated to a new four-decade high in March as supply chain constraints, the Russian war in Ukraine and strong consumer demand fueled rapid price gains.
The Labor Department said Tuesday that the consumer price index – which measures a bevy of goods including gasoline, health care, groceries and rents – rose 8.5% in March from a year ago, the fastest pace since December 1981, when inflation hit 8.9%. Prices jumped 1.2% in the one-month period from February, the largest month-to-month jump since 2005.
The March inflation data is the first to capture the full effect of the war between Russia and Ukraine, which sent the price of some commodities soaring.
Food prices have climbed 8.8% higher over the year and 1% over the month, with the largest increases in cereal and bakery products (10%), poultry, fish and meat (13.8%), fresh fruits and vegetables (8.1%) and eggs (11.2%), according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Gruel warned on Tuesday that restaurants can’t pass along higher costs to customers unless risking going out of business.
He pointed to the rising cost of a hamburger as an example.
“What we’re seeing right now is the price of goods are up 20 to 30% overall so if I need to increase the burger from $10 to $13, now throw an exorbitant amount of tax on that, even local sales tax, the customer is paying $14 for that burger where they before thought they were paying $9.99 for that burger,” he said.
“Are they willing to pay the extra money for that burger? The frank answer to that is no.”
Gruel pointed out that bigger businesses with more capital on hand may “have the cash on the sidelines to be able to maybe take in some margin compression and deal with this to some degree.”
He argued, however, that small businesses on Main Street “don’t have the capacity to pay the dollars that they need to in order to get the goods into restaurants, because there is bidding going on in the industry right now.”
FOX Business’ Megan Henney contributed to this report.