Being a Foodie Town comes at a cost, Baltimore diners are learning

November 11, 2016
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Downtown Baltimore at dusk, Maryland

Are you willing to pay for a $79 steak or a $250 seafood tower? Some Baltimore diners are.

As Baltimore’s reputation as a foodie city rises, it’s coming at a cost to the dining public. Historically limited to steak houses and select white-tablecloth restaurants, entrees priced at $30-plus are no longer a surprise on many menus as more restaurants open with higher price points.

It’s a testament to local consumer demand for higher-quality food, the Director for the Center for Excellence in Service at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business.

It’s clear that there are enough people in Baltimore who want to dine at higher-end restaurants, or they wouldn’t be opening them. Restaurants have to balance supply and demand just like any other business. And if there’s more consumer demand, then they almost have to raise their price in order to control the traffic, if nothing else.

Higher prices are evident on menus in Baltimore and beyond. From September 2015 to September 2016, menu price inflation nationwide was at 2.4 percent, according to the National Restaurant Association’s Research and Knowledge Group. Conversely, grocery store prices dropped 2.2 percent over the same period.

The way restaurants determine their prices is hardly based on the cost of food alone.

From the restaurateur perspective, a lot of that increase driving menu prices relates to labor, but restaurateurs know that consumers are sensitive to any increase in menu prices. And so consequently they’re pretty judicious about how and when they increase menu prices.

Perceived value has also driven up prices, restaurateurs and diners say. More restaurants are placing an emphasis on local sourcing, sustainability or high-end imports. And more diners have come to expect quality.

Most people believe if something is worth it, they’ll pay for it.

Baltimore ranks No. 2 on Zagat list of year’s top food cities (but Pittsburgh is No. 1). Baltimore also caught the attention of Zagat, which on Tuesday named Baltimore No. 2 on its list…

When you price, the first thing you have to think about is customer demand, and one thing is price sensitivity,” said the University of Maryland. “And it’s pretty clear that there’s a good segment of the population in Baltimore that is not price-sensitive when it comes to restaurants.”

There are plenty of foodies in this town that are willing to search out this food that is well prepared; they’re willing to pay for it.


Baltimore’s evolving food landscape continues to earn its reputation as an emerging scene on the East Coast. Between intriguing new additions and favorite standbys, our restaurants seem to constantly raise their standards while jockeying for our taste buds.

But as foodies rejoice, wallets quiver.

Source:, 11-16-16

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