Rising Beef Prices Force Businesses To Make Changes

By: Katie Stukey Email
By: Katie Stukey Email
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With the cost of beef expected to climb four percent this year and pork not far behind, a Bellevue restaurant has been forced to make a menu change.

The days are numbered at Sinful Burger near South 42nd Street and Twin Creek Drive for one of the most popular burgers on the menu, the Sloth Burger, a gargantuan meal of 3/4 of a pound of beef, several slices of bacon, three kinds of cheese and all the other toppings. From a financial standpoint, the owner says it no longer makes sense. "It was a great burger, sells real well, the problem was with beef sky-rocketing right now I just can't feasibly offer it without taking a loss,” says Jim Nearing.

The obvious alternative was to raise the price. Nearing says that was never an option. "Realistically, if I did it, the way restaurant margins are it'd be a $14 burger and that's not right for me, that's not right for the public."

For a business built on beef, it's always a balancing act and just like their burgers they already run lean. Nearing says his current profit margin on a $10 burger is just 60 cents. "I'll be honest, it's gonna come to a point where I'm gonna have to raise a couple burgers a quarter, 50 cents. It's not what I want to do, but I have to stay in business."

And staying in business means staying true to its name by keeping the product truly sinful. "You're gonna get a big, half-pound, juicy burger that I can possibly offer for without losing money."

Between labor and keeping up a quality facility, Sinful Burger was already seeing slim profit margins. So how do they respond when beef and pork prices soar? They're tackling the challenge by launching a mobile grill for the first time this spring. "I can offer a great product at a really good price and because I don't have all the overhead and all the labor involved, it can help offset some of the costs here so just another way of us being creative."

Just Good Meat on South 84th Street is taking a similar approach by offering catering in the next few months. The owner has seen beef costs climb about 15 percent over the past few years. To offset those numbers, they've launched new products like pre-seasoned, smaller packages of meat knowing more consumers are heading home for dinner.

"We're finding that more and more people are opting to come here, get a good quality steak or roast, feed their family, their whole family for the price of one person to go to a nice steakhouse in Omaha," says co-owner Sean Fuller.

While Just Good Meat launches smaller, ready-to-grill items for those trying to save money by eating at home, its bread and butter has always been large scale meat sales. And it's only getting stronger as a whole side of beef or even a quarter will run you about 2/3 the price of what customers would find at the counter.

"They share the savings with other customers so instead of getting a whole side of beef and spending $1,200, they can spend $300 and share the savings with other customers."

One-quarter hog, sides of beef, sales on that level have climbed 35 percent at Just Good Meat in the last three years.


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