5 Reasons Your Meal Is Priced So High

So just the other day, I was reading a rant in the comments section of Facebook, from a friend of mine. In summary, he was stereotyping (a certain race I shall not mention) for being known to serve miserly portions of food at an unreasonable price.

Having worked in the Food & Beverages industry for close to 5 years, I felt the need to step in and educate about what goes into the price of a food, especially ones that are indiscernible from our naked eye. I felt that it was unfair for anyone to be throwing a dart of expectations and hoping for it to hit the bull’s-eye, when the dart is selfishly blunt.

The little discussion I had with him, was what prompted me to write this article, with hopes that it will help to enlighten the general public on what are they actually paying for, apart from the physical product itself.

So, what are the costs that you actually pay for, when you purchase that expensive, one-bite piece of macaron, or that hand-bottled juice that did not provide the quench of thirst you were hoping for?

Disclaimer: This article is written based on the perspective and experience of someone who works in a small and medium-sized enterprise (SME), where most of the things are done via manual labour as opposed to using machinery (i.e. pasting brand stickers on packaging, pouring juices manually into individual bottles using a jug)

This is the most obvious cost involved, and seemingly the easiest to make a gauge of. The quality of the ingredients, number of portions it could yield, its respective supply versus demand, all contributes to how high the costing of this could be.

Sometimes to keep costs low, alternatives may be used. For example, a fillet of Asian seabass may be used, in place of barramundi; most consumers would not be able to set it apart, as there is no vast genetic difference in these two fishes to be considered as different species.

Unless you do not mind having your piping hot food being served directly onto your hand, this cost should of course be considered.

Packaging or plating cost, is the reason your food can be kept warm for takeaways or picturesque enough for your superficial followers on Facebook, Snapchat or Instagram, respectively.

If you have ever wondered why certain places charge a few cents more just to pack your food in a paper takeaway box, you have now found your answer. Paper comes from trees, ain’t no way it’s free.

The cost that is often overlooked; most consumers would think that the price of food only revolves around the two costs above, which is much more transparent and visible.

However, labour costs are actually the second highest cost in the food and beverages industry.

Behind that satiating bowl of pasta, someone had to be the one blanching the fusilli, another would have had to create the sauce from scratch and in bulk, followed by another person having to cook it upon order. Lastly, someone would have to be the one to send the food to your table for your immediate consumption.

Labour cost takes into consideration the effort taken to prepare the product that is in your hand, or sits before you.

This is why, despite being made of almond meal, sugar and egg whites, macarons can cost roughly between $2.50 to $3 a piece; the technical aspects in creating it contributes to the labour cost.

To increase efficiency, and to be able to produce more in a shorter amount of time, establishments would have to invest in high-performing equipment.

Your steak arrived faster than usual, but is cooked to your desired doneness? Thank the sous vide machine. And of course the chef who seared it perfectly on both sides.

Ever attended music festivals or large-scale bazaars? You would realise that the food and beverages tend to be steeper at these locations. This is because, for food and beverages vendors that does pop-up events, they would have to factor in additional costs in terms of logistics. This would include the transport indented to deliver equipment and replenish stocks, to and fro from the event location, as well as the cost incurred in renting a booth.

So the next time you purchase your food or beverage, think about the costs involved, before you begin a rant about it not being generous in terms of portion or feel that it is not “worth the price” you paid for.

Generally, food are priced at three (3) times the overall cost; this is an estimation, if you want to justify what you are paying for.

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