Add this to the conversation about the shift toward farm-to-table/organic/local sourcing at restaurants.
I just heard from Frank McCourt at McCourt's Farm to Table, a fairly new BYOB in Hatboro. "We decided to change most of the menu and lower our prices significantly," he says. "We've also lost 'organic,' as the food costs were astronomical."
By Eastern Montgomery County standards, McCourt's menu prices were shockingly high, as entrees went north quickly from the low to mid-$20s with gusts in the $30s. Now, everything is in the teens, except for a New York strip.
It would be easy to chide McCourt and his partners for miscalculating consumer sentiment and the reality of wholesale pricing in their business plan.
But just today, the NPD Group, a market research company, reported that consumers -- especially older ones -- might want to eat more healthfully in restaurants, but they do not expect to pay more for it.
The report says that 70 percent of consumers, especially those 50-plus (who typically express more interest in healthful foods than their younger people), expect to pay no more for healthier items than they do for other menu items.
In contrast, the report says, younger adults appear more open to paying more for healthful items, with 44 percent of those ages 18 to 24 saying they would expect prices for healthful items to be the same as other items, and 41 percent saying they would expect to pay somewhat more. Fifteen percent said they would expect to pay a lot more.
I rang up Robert Amar, who runs Fare, the new organic/locavore bistro in Fairmount, who agrees about the price sensitivity, especially among older patrons whose upscale-dining experiences were shaped by the Stephen Starrs of the industry, rather than the Alice Waterses. Fare's menu prices are mostly under $20.
Amar and chef Tim Bellew watch the bottom line by using less expensive options. "Instead of serving 'airline' chicken breasts, we use thighs. Still flavorful, less expensive. We don't do a whole branzino. We have a whole Boston mackerel."
Fare also has a bar (a profit center if there ever was one) to offset food costs.