Tampa restaurant owners are concerned about rising costs for key ingredients

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Inflation is cooling, but prices are still rising — just more slowly.

The hospitality industry remains the hardest hit, and there’s one ingredient that worries chefs and bakers even more.

Several downtown Tampa restaurants are taking a creative approach to keeping costs down for customers.

“We offer discounts,” said Mike Sarmat, manager at Eddie & Sam’s NY Pizza. “I offer online order discounts because ordering online saves us the hassle of having to answer the phone.”

Sarmat is familiar with the pressures of rising inflation as food prices continue to rise. He’s filling fewer positions to offset costs.

“We used to have between 10 and 14 people on each shift, now it’s 8 to 10,” Sarmat said.

However, the discussion about inflation could change. The CPI released last week offers a glimmer of hope. The annual inflation rate fell to its lowest level in two years last month, but there are still many setbacks.

Food prices are outpacing headline inflation and have risen by more than 7 percent over the past year.

Cereal and baked goods prices are up about 12 percent, but it’s the last ingredient on the list that’s putting pressure on pizzerias and bakeries. Flour costs increased by 18 percent compared to the previous year.

“It’s not too much of a burden for us yet, but we’re trying to take it easy so it doesn’t have a big impact,” said Summer Bailey, senior pastry chef at Boulon Brasserie and Bakery.

Boulon says flour is a key ingredient in their best-selling desserts.

“Even vanilla beans and now they say flour and eggs and cream,” Bailey said. “It’s pastry. My crème brûlée is basically egg yolk, cream and vanilla bean.”

The Boulon Bakery recently opened and business has been better than expected. However, Bailey is still looking for creative ways to keep costs to her customers as low as possible.

“It touched us a little bit,” Bailey said. “We’re trying to run a few special promotions to help with that. We don’t want to raise our prices. We don’t want our customers to have to pay more.”

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