Restaurants Grapple with Rising Chicken Prices

Chicken is not as cheap as it used to be.

USDA reported prices for skinned boneless chicken breasts in the Northeast region were ranging between $3.30 and $3.35 per lb. on May 4. Food Institute records showed this was up from the $2.90-$2.95 range reported as recently as April 13. Increases were also reported for chicken legs and leg quarters, with wing prices the only category tracked to exhibit a price decrease.

Because of this, some restaurants have had to raise prices on certain items.

“While the natural reaction by restaurant owners is to raise prices, that can backfire in an economy where consumers are struggling with growing inflation,” Dan Rowe, CEO of Fransmart told The Food Institute.

With that said, we took a closer look at what chains are doing to cope:


“Given high prices on all types of commodities, operators have been taking prices up liberally and frequently to accommodate,” said Joe Pawlak, managing principal at Technomic.

For example, Noodles & Company is adding a temporary $1 surcharge to all dishes featuring chicken to fight against the rising costs, reported Restaurant Business (April 28).

The pasta chain, where half of all customers order a dish with chicken, expects to pay 80% more for the protein during the second quarter than it did in 2021.

“We view this temporary surcharge as one-time and fairly short-lived as the market is expected to normalize reasonably soon,” CFO Carl Lukach told analysts, according to a transcript.

Noodles & Co. is not the only chain raising prices. The price of a Popeyes’ crispy chicken sandwich at one New York City location jumped nearly 13% to $4.49 in late March, according to a Reuters review. It had been $3.99 since its launch.

In the U.K., Peri-peri chicken chain Nando’s saw ten chicken wings and two sides rise from £14.95 ($18.79) to £16 ($20.11) since November, reported The Daily Mail (May 1). KFC’s prices have risen in the U.K. as well, with the ‘supersize’ meal rising from 60p ($0.75) extra to ($1.24) extra.

As inflation continues to rise, consumers are starting to take notice.

“Until perhaps a couple of months ago, consumers have not reacted much at all to raising restaurant menu prices,” said Pawlak. “However, consumers – now with higher gas prices and other items spiking in costs – are starting to react. We are noticing some visit frequency start to decline and loss of customers particularly in lower income groups.”


Meanwhile, fast casual chain Wingstop said it is finally starting to see “meaningful deflation in wings,” reported Restaurant Business (May 4).

In 2021, wings were going for $3.22 a pound on the spot market, now the chain is paying $1.64 per pound, Wingstop CEO Michael Skipworth told analysts during the company’s most recent earnings call.

“We anticipate significant deflation in our core commodity, bone-in wings,” Skipworth said. “This significant deflation in wing prices has bolstered restaurant-level cash flows.”