Rising costs and falling demand put the pinch on the food delivery industry | Economics in Plain English

Feb 28 2012

Rising costs and falling demand put the pinch on the food delivery industry

Gas pushes up cost for Triangle delivery restaurants – Economy – NewsObserver.com

Read the article below and answer the discussion questions that follow:

Do you love the convenience of having your pepperoni pizza or egg foo young delivered right to your door?

If gas prices continue to rise in the next few months, it might cost you more for the privilege depending on where you order.

Triangle-area delivery restaurants worry about the impact higher gas prices could have on their businesses. It’s a concern that is felt among these restaurants nationwide.

On Sunday, the average price for regular unleaded gas in North Carolina was about $3.71, according to AAA. The website raleighgasprices.com listed prices as low at $3.54 in Fuquay-Varina and as high as $3.89 in Cary.

HotBox Pizza on Hillsborough Street charges $2 for a delivery to help offset the costs of gas for its drivers. While owner James McCaskill said there are no imminent plans to raise that fee, he does worry that it could cost more to get food shipments in.

“For us to deliver the pizza, there’s a cost,” McCaskill said. “We have to pay for our drivers and the wear and tear on their car and essentially to help pay for the gas they use to deliver the pizzas.”

Bruno Rodriguez, owner of Amante Gourmet Pizza in Durham, said back in 2008 when gas hovered around $4 a gallon, the effects weren’t so bad because the hike was short lived. But he’s more worried about it in 2012 during a time when roughly 60 percent of his orders are for delivery.

“I think we’re coming slowly out of a recession, but I think with gas prices around $4, I think it’s going to be longer lived so that definitely will have an impact,” he said. “People will tend to not order many deliveries.”

Rodriguez said Amante charges $1.40 for deliveries in the Bull City, and he probably spends about $40 or $50 a week on gas for deliveries. Fortunately for him, he has a small Toyota, but he isn’t ruling out raising his delivery charge 20 or 30 cents if things get worse.

Shanghai Express, across from N.C. State University on Hillsborough Street, serves primarily college students.

“The economy is no good, so business definitely goes down,” said manager Jinlong Wang, who estimates about half of his orders are deliveries. “Their parents pay their tuition. But when economy no good, parents have no money and (students) have no money too.”

Many experts are debating whether gas could reach $5 a gallon by this summer. That could potentially cripple many businesses.

“If it stays there for too long, it will be a problem,” Rodriguez said. “I think sales are going to go down.”

Rodriguez said the key to keeping gas prices reasonable is not action by lawmakers in Washington, but in how all Americans act.

“It’s up to us to control how much we drive, how hard we drive, what kind of cars do we drive. I’m not sure Washington can do much except drill more in more dangerousplaces,” he said.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How do rising gas prices affect the short-run costs of running a delivery service for local restaurants in North Carolina?
  2. Why were the high gas prices in 2008 less of a concern that the rising gas prices in 2012 for these restaurants?
  3. Assume the restaurant delivery industry is perfectly competitive and at the beginning of 2012 was in a long-run equilibrium. Using two diagrams, one for the restaurant delivery industry and one for a single restaurant in the industry, illustrate the effect of rising gas prices on the individual firms in the short-run.
  4. Assume gas prices remain high throughout 2012 and into 2013. How will the industry adjust to higher gas prices in the long-run? Illustrate the long-run adjustment in your graphs.
  5. “The economy is no good, so business definitely goes down.” Which determinant of demand for restaurant meals is described here? How does the bad economy affect the restaurant industry and firms in the industry? In new diagrams, show the effect of the poor economy on the market and a single restaurant in the market. 

About the author:  Jason Welker teaches International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement Economics at Zurich International School in Switzerland. In addition to publishing various online resources for economics students and teachers, Jason developed the online version of the Economics course for the IB and is has authored two Economics textbooks: Pearson Baccalaureate's Economics for the IB Diploma and REA's AP Macroeconomics Crash Course. Jason is a native of the Pacific Northwest of the United States, and is a passionate adventurer, who considers himself a skier / mountain biker who teaches Economics in his free time. He and his wife keep a ski chalet in the mountains of Northern Idaho, which now that they live in the Swiss Alps gets far too little use. Read more posts by this author

3 responses so far

3 Responses to “Rising costs and falling demand put the pinch on the food delivery industry”

  1. Michael Dimon 29 Oct 2012 at 4:39 am

    This is bad news for people like me who likes to drive around and eat home cooked meals delivered after work. Apparently, this is definitely not a win-win situation for anyone. I wish restaurants can find an alternative in the future.

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