Food portions shrink as inflation bites

Higher prices, at times with smaller portions, greet consumers as food businesses struggle with high operational costs

Published - May 17, 2022 11:43 pm IST - HYDERABAD

A chef at Chicha’s restaurant in Hyderabad preparing a non-vegetarian delicacy.

A chef at Chicha’s restaurant in Hyderabad preparing a non-vegetarian delicacy. | Photo Credit: RAMAKRISHNA G.

Food inflation is sparing none. The effects have reached a well-heeled club in Delhi in Lodhi Gardens where the number of idlis per plate has come down to two from three over the past few weeks. In the small town of Gudivada in Andhra Pradesh, a hole-in-the-wall eatery called Rolls & Grills has shuttered temporarily. In Hyderabad, the food portions served by restaurants as well as food carts have shrunk too. The best example can be found at a café attached to a free open space in Banjara Hills. The squat round bowl for curries is now a tapering conical one as the cost of the food item has remained the same.

A by-product of this inflation challenge is innovation. Those who can are doing it and those who can’t are reducing the portion sizes. “We have been forced to increase prices of all items as the cost of everything has gone up. We cannot reduce portion sizes as our customers are used to the same quantity,” informed the teller at Shah Ghouse Café in Toli Chowki area.

Incidentally, Shah Ghouse is one of the pioneering restaurants in the city that uses LPG to cook rice used in tonnes of biryani that they cook up during peak lunch and dinner time. With LPG commercial cylinder price crossing the ₹2,000-mark, the restaurant has been impacted.

A chicken shawarma roll used to cost around ₹90 to ₹100 (prices on food delivery apps are higher). Now, a mini shawarma roll, which is also being hawked by Mohammedia Shawarma, is half the size and costs ₹59 — a nearly 20% increase matching the food inflation rate.

Many food entrepreneurs have seen a sharp squeeze on their margins. “I am able to rotate money. There is no profit. If we increase the prices soon, I have some optimism about profit,” said Minhaz Ahmed who runs Kritunga Restaurant near Lakdi-ka-Pul. “In November 2020, palmolein oil price was ₹88 a litre; now it is ₹168. The price of basmati rice has gone up from ₹88 to ₹112,” says the restaurant owner, pointing to the impact of inflation.

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