The Etiquette of Raising Prices


Before we had ever heard the phrase ‘unprecedented times,’ the idea of raising prices was, for many, not only an avoidable evil but also incredibly daunting.

However, these unprecedented times are unfortunately becoming the precedent and the current economic climate, coupled with the cost-of-living crisis and increase in energy prices, have left few with any alternatives.

In this article that featured in the December issue of our Catering Quarterly magazine, we look at how you can handle raising your prices so as to protect your business, without alienating your customer base.

It can be an intimidating task with warranted fears about losing customers and out pricing yourself from the market. Nevertheless, in order for independent food and drink businesses to survive, it is integral to recognise when it has become necessary to raise prices.

Moreover, there is such a thing as the ‘right way’ to raise your prices. When done in an informative, transparent and well-reasoned manner, raising your prices need not deter your customers.

Additionally, it will allow you to continue providing the unparalleled service and unique custom that your customer base has come to love. Raising prices might seem like yet another evil, but it is a necessary evil in order to keep your business not just surviving, but thriving.

The language that you use around price increases can be the difference between a happy and understanding customer and a frustrated one. Ensure that all your staff understand why your prices have changed and be confident that they could explain this to consumers if needs be.


As Holly Foster from Captain Hank’s Crab and Snack Shack explains, after breaking down the reasoning for price changes to querying customers ‘most people are understanding.’

Undoubtedly a factor in this has been Holly’s determination to ‘keep prices at a reasonable level’ in order to adapt to the economic pressures without out pricing herself and her business from the market. This clear and informative explanation has allowed her to adapt to rising prices without an excessive loss of customers.

In April, Ed Farrell from The Duck Truck shared his fears that the increasing cost of supplies would create a knock-on effect that would have to be passed onto the consumer. Sharing with us that ‘duck prices [had gone up] by £10 a case,’ Ed echoed the worries of many that food supply price increases could only be swallowed for so long, before resulting in menu price increases.

However, Ed, like Holly, wanted his customers to know why this had happened, clarifying to customers that suppliers raising their prices was forcing him to do the same. By ensuring that both he and his staff can explain this, their customers are able to make better informed decisions which keeps The Duck Truck as a viable option in spite of increased prices. Independent food and drink businesses have a proven track record of adapting to difficult times.

The current economic situation is yet another hurdle which the industry must face and whilst price increases are not a guaranteed way to ensure the success of business, they can create a much needed economic buffer which reflects other increasing prices further up the chain. By providing an honest, transparent and timely update on price changes, businesses will find that the majority of their customer base remain understanding and supportive.

Here are 5 top tips on the right way to raise your prices:

1. Be clear and direct
Use ‘I’ and ‘we’ language; part of your appeal as an independent business is that you aren’t a faceless corporation. Reassure customers that this is a decision that you have made as a refl ection of the economy and that these steps are necessary for the betterment of your business.

2. Explain why
It is hard to avoid the constant news about the state of the economy and whilst we can only hope for some semblance of stability in the coming months, few aren’t aware of the pressures that everyone is facing. However, the wider public might not be aware of how this is impacting the hospitality sector. Staffing shortages, rise in food costs and business energy prices more than doubling for some, have a knock on effect and unfortunately these price increases must now be passed onto the consumer. Provide a detailed, but not overly complicated, summary of the main factors that have led to price increases.

3. Don’t say sorry
Whilst some have the flexibility to raise prices out of choice and a desire to level up their business, others have had their hand forced. In either situation, avoid saying sorry. As previously mentioned, this may be a necessary evil, but apologising for it implies to customers that it is a short-sighted, reactive decision that you have not carefully considered. Moreover, an apology can come across as disingenuous and inconsiderate of the economic difficulties that customers are also facing. Honest, clear and timely communication negates the need for an apology.

4. Say something
Ensure that you say something about menu price changes. Social media can be a great way to get a quick message out to your customer base about price increases on your menu. Don’t simply raise your prices and say nothing as this will likely lead to frustration for customers who have been given no reasoning and may have pre-planned a visit based off of older pricing. Keeping your customers in the loop is a courteous action which can prove to be something they remember favourably when deciding which independent food and drink businesses to frequent.

5. Thank your customers for their understanding
Acknowledge, without apologising, that this situation is not ideal and pre-emptively thank your customers for their understanding and, hopefully, continued custom. Without this your business would struggle to survive, so take the time to thank your customers in advance for their consideration.

For more feature articles and relevant hospitality industry news click here.

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