The cost of dining out is going up as New York raises the wages of the lowest-paid cooks, dishwashers, and porters, as well as for better-compensated waiters, bussers, and bartenders. And so the latest example of restaurants passing along these higher labor costs to consumers is at the three Michelin-starred Jean-Georges, where the price of dinner and lunch menus have increased by $10 across the board.
Lunch at Jean-Georges, previously $48, or $38 in early 2014, or $28 in the late-aughts, is now $58 for two courses, with additional plates running $29 apiece (up from $24). Dinner, in turn, is $138 for four courses (up from $128), with both tasting menus now priced at $218. The price of the nightly wine pairing has risen by ten bucks as well, to $158. So a fully loaded dinner date for two, after pairings, tax and tip, will now run $969, up from $918.
"Food and labor prices have risen this year so we had to adjust the menu pricing accordingly," a spokesperson for Jean-Georges told Eater. The New York minimum wage rose by seventy-five cents in January to $8.75, and will increase by another quarter to $9 in 2016. The tipped minimum, which is what most service staffers make before gratuities, will go up even more dramatically in the new year, by $2.50 to $7.50. "We will adjust once the new minimums go into effect," the spokesperson said.
Another factor at play is the city's new fast food minimum wage, which will gradually rise to $15 in 2018. That higher wage will force restaurants across New York to increase their pay scales for back-of-the-house workers lest they risk losing talent to what might be higher paying jobs, on average, at McDonald's and elsewhere.
Restaurateurs throughout the country are also facing pressure on beef prices, with Texas cattle herds continuing to rebuild following a multi-year drought, and rising egg prices, with avian flu having decimated significant portions of the domestic chicken population this spring.
From a more technical perspective, PhD students of Suttonomics know that if any of New York's three most heralded French restaurants – Le Bernardin, Daniel, or Jean-Georges – individually raise prices, the other two will usually follow with comparable hikes shortly thereafter. Jean-Georges, as it turns out, was the trio's last holdout in 2015. Daniel hiked its entry-level price by $10 to $135 earlier in 2015 (it also moved from a three-course format to a four-course menu), while Le Bernardin hiked its four-course menu to $140. So with Jean-Georges at $138, there's now just a $5 price differential among all three venues.
For those inclined to gripe about Jean-Georges' higher lunch price, which is now 58 percent higher than it was a little over a year ago, keep in mind that Le Bernardin's midday offering is still more expensive, at $80 for two courses plus dessert. Del Posto, Mario Batali's upscale Italian venue, by comparison, charges $49 for a three-course lunch, while Michael White's two-Michelin-starred Marea, across the street from Jean-Georges, asks $47 for two-courses.