America’s richest restaurateur warns diners should prepare to pay more

America's richest restaurateur warns diners should prepare to pay more

One of America's largest restaurant owners says food price inflation and minimum wage hikes will mean a bigger bill at the end of your next meal out.

"We have an inflation problem right now," said Landry's Inc. founder and CEO Tilman Fertitta, the billionaire who owns and operates more than 450 restaurants across 40 unique brands, in an interview at the Milken Global Conference.

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Fertitta's portfolio of restaurants stretches across the price spectrum, from the seafood and steak on the menu at Chart House and Morton's to Rainforest Café and Bubba Gump. "Everything from lime to coffee to shrimp…is hitting us at once," he says.

In California, where Landry's operates more than 70 restaurants, the minimum wage will increase from $8 an hour to $9 on July 1. Fertitta estimates that change will add $3 million annually, just in labor cost, to his expenditure.

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"I have no issue with raising minimum wage," Fertitta said, "but then the customer can't say to us, 'why are you raising your prices?'" Even at fast casual chains like Rainforest Café or Bubba Gump, where per-person dining costs hover around $20, Fertitta warns that diners should be ready for higher menu prices.

Consumers are "going to be paying a dollar more an entrée at basically every restaurant in America."