Popular San Francisco Taqueria Hit With Double Whammy, Forced to Double Prices Just to Survive

As inflation continues to eat away at the value of the dollar small business owners like Ricardo Lopez of La Vaca Birria in San Francisco’s Mission District are being forced to make difficult decisions just to keep their doors open, according to a report in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Lopez, who has been reluctant to raise prices on his popular beef birria tacos and burritos, recently took to Instagram to explain why he had no choice but to increase the cost of his grilled cheese birria burrito from $11 to $22 over the past couple years.

“I wish there was something else that I could do,” Lopez lamented, highlighting the economic realities facing restaurant owners across the country, but those in blue states are getting hit with a double whammy that makes survival especially hard.

The primary culprits behind these price hikes are soaring ingredient costs and mandated wage increases, especially in blue zones.

USDA Choice grade chuck, a key component in Lopez’s signature birria, has jumped from $4 per pound three years ago to $6 per pound today. With the restaurant using approximately 2,500 pounds of beef monthly, this translates to an additional $5,000 in expenses.

Other staples like onions have seen even more dramatic increases, with 50-pound sacks rising from around $11 to a staggering $80. Soybean oil and mesquite charcoal, both essential to La Vaca Birria’s operations, have more than doubled in price. As Lopez puts it, “Nothing that I can think of has returned to pre-COVID pricing.”

On top of ingredient costs, labor remains the restaurant’s most significant expense.

San Francisco’s minimum wage ordinance has driven hourly rates up to $18.07, with some of Lopez’s veteran staff earning even more. The labor-intensive nature of preparing the restaurant’s offerings, which involves cooking the birria a day in advance, chilling it overnight to remove excess fat, and then braising it until tender, only compounds these costs.

La Vaca Birria’s predicament is far from unique, as restaurants nationwide grapple with the consequences of record Bidenflation and government-mandated wage hikes. From pizza to fried chicken sandwiches, the prices of popular foods have been steadily climbing, and burritos are no exception.