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The Wall Street Journal has a story about how "restaurants and supermarkets are ramping up competition for Americans’ mealtimes, as consumers gird for a souring economy while food bills continue to rise.

"Many restaurants are promoting deals they said are aimed at giving consumers more value for their dollars, while raising menu prices. Supermarkets are stocking more low-price staples and offering specials on prepared food that companies said are targeted toward shoppers who are rethinking how many times they eat out each week.

"Eating at home generally remains cheaper than dining out, with the typical restaurant meal costing 3.4 times as much as meals made using groceries, according to market research firm NPD Group. Inflationary forces that this year have driven up the cost of food, fuel and other necessities have pushed up price tags on grocery-store shelves at a faster clip than those on restaurant menus … Both restaurants and supermarkets have raised prices this year, though grocery stores have logged bigger increases, federal data shows.

"Grocery prices were up 12.4% on an annual basis in October, the eighth straight month of double-digit percentage increases recorded at supermarkets, according to the Labor Department. Year-over-year restaurant prices were up 8.6% in October, the federal agency said. The inflationary gap between restaurants and grocers peaked in July and August but is starting to narrow, an analysis of federal data shows."

KC's View:

Supermarkets ought to paraphrase that WSJ line in big letters for people walking in their front doors:

The typical restaurant meal costs 3.4 times as much as meals made using groceries.

I'm glad the Journal is resisting the press releases sent out by restaurant industry flacks, claiming that restaurant meals are much cheaper than food bought in supermarkets.

At the same time, food retailers ought to aggressively emphasize that they are focused on value in addition to price.  They ought to change the debate so that it favors them, turning what restaurants argue is a liability into an advantage.