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House Cafeteria Prices to Rise Next Week

Prices in the House cafeterias will soon increase, with most food items costing from 10 percent to 20 percent more — and some jumping as much as 40 percent.

For example: An order of small fries will soon cost $1.75, up from $1.35; a grilled cheese will set you back $3.95, up from $2.75; and the salad bar will jump by almost 25 percent, from 38 cents to 48 cents an ounce.

Made-to-order sandwiches will vary in their price increases, with a club sandwich rising by less than 1 percent and a BLT costing about 41 percent more.

The higher prices will go into effect on Friday, Oct. 24. In a statement, Chief Administrative Officer Dan Beard said the average increase is about 10 percent.

“Unfortunately, the House food operations are not immune to what everyone is experiencing in supermarkets throughout America,” said Beard, who oversees the cafeterias. “While most increases are slight and will be barely noticeable, other items are more affected by the rise in wholesale food prices and some consumers in our cafeterias will notice the increase, as they already have in grocery stores and restaurants all over the country.”

Beard first announced the price increase about three weeks ago, though he didn’t specify how much prices would rise. At that time, his spokesman said the increase was due to the rising costs of gas and food.

In an Oct. 9 memo to House Administration Chairman Robert Brady (D-Pa.), Beard repeats that reasoning. But he also writes that prices were unrealistic when Restaurant Associates took over management of the House cafeterias in December.

When the private company signed the contract, it agreed to keep prices at the same level as the previous vendor. But, Beard writes, some items were “priced too low at the beginning of the contract.”

“They started with prices that did not match the economic situation of that time, and unquestionably do not match the current economic situation,” he wrote in the memo. “In addition, RA is using all natural and fresh products, compared to the previous contractor, which did not. RA started with higher costs to produce the same item.”

For the past 10 months, Restaurant Associates “faced record wholesale price increases and fuel surcharges,” according to a statement from the company. Overall food costs in 2008 went up 8.3 percent nationwide — the highest one-year jump in 20 years, according to the company.

“We can no longer absorb these price increases,” RA officials said in a statement. “Like our suppliers we are forced to increase our prices in the House food service operations.”

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