Survey: Restaurant Dessert Prices Up, App Prices Down, Oklahoma Has Cheapest Beer

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A survey of national restaurant chains in 21 U.S. markets reveals that menu prices have gone up, by and large, though they haven’t risen as sharply as they have in the past.

Restaurant chains have reacted to the recession with tons of promotions to attract diners: special happy hour deals (and more happy hours period) and deals like two-for-one entrees and free appetizers, as examples. But overall, menu prices have gone up over the past year. According to consulting firm Intellaprice, via Nation’s Restaurant News, between July 2008 and July 2009:

*Prices for side dishes and desserts rose 8% and 7%, respectively

*Prices for dinner entrees and bar drinks rose 2.2% and 1.7%, respectively

At the same time, appetizer prices decreased 2%. Some analysis of what’s going on from the surveyors:

“What we’ve found this year…is that restaurants, knowing that their customers have become more price-sensitive, have tapered off on increasing menu prices,” said Leslie Kerr, president of Intellaprice. “Obviously, they still care about driving up their tickets, but they don’t want to be so blatant that people start to say they don’t want to eat out.”

As for frosty beverages, Oklahoma City has bragging rights for home of the nation’s cheapest beers—at least for those ordered in chain restaurants. Details:

The study, the firm’s third annual, compared year-over-year menu pricing as of July at 14 casual-dining chains in 21 markets nationwide. Intellaprice would not identify the chains, but said it tracked nearly 2,900 beverages and 13,000 food prices for its survey. In 2008, the same study indicated that overall menu prices at casual dinnerhouses increased 2 percent and prices for bar beverages rose 5 percent from 2007.

The survey also found that prices varied noticeably by market, with Atlanta boasting the most expensive dinner entrées at an average price of $14.75, outpacing prices in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. New York, however, leads the pack in drink prices, followed by Washington, D.C. For example, a domestic beer costs on average $4.15 in New York and $4.13 in Washington, D.C. Oklahoma City, where a domestic beer costs $3.22 on average, offers the lowest-priced drinks, the survey found.