Total food menu inflation was only +0.9% from June to September 2022 – much lower than the overall figure since February of +4%, suggesting operators are keeping costs down through menu management, according to Lumina Intelligence.

New data from its Menu Tracker tool also found that chain and pub and bar restaurants are focusing on menu inflation on new dishes rather than same-line.

The channels seeing the highest levels of menu price inflation were coffee and sandwich shops, and restaurants, at +3.3% and +2.4%, for the four months to September 2022, respectively.

However, restaurant menus have seen a much higher rate of price inflation in the period since February 2022 – up 8%.

Lumina said that lower overall figure seen over the summer months has been influenced by operators taking more expensive dishes off menus and replacing them with less expensive alternatives.

The new number of items on menus has also increased by +1.8% over the period, to 137 items on average.

Sides, starters and desserts that were new in September 2022 were +23%, +14% and +8%, more expensive, respectively, than the average dish.

Operators are also introducing more sharing dishes across discretionary courses including starter and dessert dishes, to encourage spend as consumers cut back on non-core dishes.

Sharing items have increased in share of starter, main and dessert from June to September 2022, accounting for 7% of total restaurant menus, increasing to 14% of desserts.

Looking at same-line dish price inflation, starters, sides, and snacks registered a +1.7% increase from June to September, with starters ranking the highest rise at +2.8%.

“So far, operators have been able to avoid increasing food and drink price points in-line with CPI and food inflation. Instead managing menus through changes in proteins used, the types of dishes offered, and clever NPD has enabled operators to avoid alarming price rises,” commented Katherine Prowse, senior insight manager at Lumina.