"With commodity costs, among other restaurant-level expenses, expected to rise at a minimum with inflation, restaurants continue to be challenged to identify the correct menu price increases without jeopardizing same-store sales and profits," Piper Jaffray analysts wrote in a recent report.
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Some restaurants, including burger chain In-N-Out and Chipotle, have already chosen to raise prices. Following Chipotle's first nationwide price hike in three years, the Mexican food chain has seen some shift in demand from steak entrees, which rose more, to chicken, which increased less.
"We expected some customers would trade down from steak to chicken as a result of the higher steak premium, and we have, in fact, seen some customers shift from steak to chicken," CFO John Hartung said in a call with analysts.
Sanderson Farms, which produces, processes and distributes chicken, also recently noted a rise in chicken demand. Fresh chicken sales rose 8.1 percent in the second quarter from last spring, CEO Joe Sanderson told analysts.
"We believe the improved demand we are enjoying ... is a result of higher priced beef, not more foot traffic in restaurants," he added.