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It's Not Just Chipotle: The Price of a Burrito Has Gone Up Citywide

And you're probably not going to like the reason. (It's the minimum wage.)

 

Go ahead and hate on Chipotle, but the national Mex-Lite chain is not the only burritoporium raising prices in San Francisco to make up for the city's minimum wage hike. In fact, it's actually one of the last to do so. Whether you noticed it or not, virtually every taqueria in the city has pushed prices up since the November election, when voters approved a gradual, three-year raise of the city's minimum wage to $15.  

The sad news is, San Francisco is currently witnessing unprecedented levels of burrito inflation. We called 25 taquerias around town, and nearly every single one confessed to raising their prices since November (a few just hung up on us, which we take as a tacit admission of guilt). At La Cornetta, a burrito that once cost $6.45 is now $7.40. At El Farolito, what was $6.75 is now $7.45. At Taqueria Guadalajara, the $7.35 regular is now $7.85. The only exceptions were Valencia Street’s El Toro, where the owner has apparently been meaning to raise prices ever since the election but has been “too busy” to figure out the details, and Fulton Street’s Papalote, which would say only, “We haven‘t, but we will.”

What's behind it all? “It’s the wage increase,” says the folks at the Little Chihuahua. It looks like our city’s burrito supply is getting the worst of what economists call a wage-price spiral. But to those of us without an economics degree, this seems almost counter-intuitive: After all, doesn't raising prices diminish demand right when local taquerias need it the most? “That’s a concern, and there is potential to drive consumers away,” says Regina Dick-Endrizzi, director of the Office of Small Business. “But unless you’re in tech you can’t operate in the red. This is what business owners always do: Try to find that sweet spot where prices alleviate their burdens without hurting public appeal.”

Dick-Endrizzi points out that small businesses are also getting hit with major rent hikes and various other increases in overhead lately, which certainly doesn’t help. And price increases tend to be less likely to drive people away from restaurants than from other sorts of brick and mortar businesses, which have to compete with online shopping.

So that’s how it is: We have, as a voting body, raised the price of burritos, although admittedly not by a lot. Chipotle held out longer than almost all of its local rivals. Was it worth it? Time will tell. But you're still eating burritos, aren't you?

 

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Email Adam L. Brinklow at tamlinearthly@gmail.com
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Follow Adam L. Brinklow on Twitter @AdamLBrinklow