Consumers, businesses adjust to high food prices

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 23, 2008

All over the county, restaurant consumers may see a bit of a change in their usual culinary haunts. With rising food prices, many businesses are making a few adjustments to avoid passing the extra costs on to their customers.

In Demopolis, Napoleon&8217;s Restaurant has had to change its signature all-you can eat lunch to a more traditional one-plate special in order to avoid a price increase.

Jackie Poole, owner of Smokin&8217; Jack&8217;s in Demopolis, said fuel costs have hurt everyone, and the effects are trickling down to the business they do.

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But not all establishments have been able to avoid a food increase, such as Kora&8217;s Place, that recently added a minor raise on their lunch special prices.

Restaurants aren&8217;t the only ones feeling the pinch, however. Linden City Schools recently raised prices on lunches to go into effect next year. The price increase, according to Superintendent Scott Collier, was due directly to higher food costs.

The Associated Press reports some establishments in larger metropolitan areas have retail chains asking customers to pay extra for once free convenience items such as sandwich toppings. Some say the extra cost is not just to cover businesses&8217; expenses, but rather an attempt for retailers to take advantage of the economic slowdown.

But without a doubt, the economy&8217;s performance has exhibited basic principles that account for most of the increase in the wholesale cost of food worldwide. Bad weather has hurt crops. Economic prosperity has driven up demand in developing countries. Soaring fuel prices have raised transportation costs.

In Alabama, some legislators have attempted to curb the public&8217;s outcry over the increase in basic necessities by calling for legislation to repeal the state&8217;s 4 percent sale tax on groceries.

The proposed legislation would not only remove the tax, but it would also raise the threshold where a family of four starts paying state income tax from $12,600 to $20,000. To make up for the lost revenue, their proposal would end the state&8217;s income tax deduction for federal taxes paid. Removing the tax deduction would cause a net increase in tax collections of $25 million.

According to the Associated Press, Alabama and Mississippi are the only states that don&8217;t remove or reduce the state sales tax on food or that don&8217;t give tax rebates to the poor. Alabama, Iowa and Louisiana are the only states that allow citizens to deduct 100 percent of their federal income taxes from their state taxes.

But the legislation remained stalled on the proposal, and by the last day of the legislative session, only the House was able to pass the bill. If the proposal does pass in a special session, it would only take effect if approved by a majority of Alabama voters in a statewide referendum.

Until any legislation is passed to relieve the situation, many consumers may be forced to find ways to simplify their spending and avoid eating out.