When junior Maddie Volp ordered a vanilla iced coffee from The Oak House on March 21, the barista repeated her order back to her, wrote it on a cup, passed it down the assembly line and said, “That’ll be $3.84.” 

If Volp had placed this order before spring break, she would have spent 21 cents less. 

The increase in prices is a result of the high inflation rate for the U.S., which is 8.5% in 2022 — the highest since December 1981 according to the U.S. Department of Labor. The most recent Consumer Price Index Summary from the department also reported that inflation rates have hit record 40-year highs for the fifth consecutive month. Consumer prices rose 8.5% in the last year, and take out food has even risen 6.9% in the last year. 

At The Oak House, customers are paying about 20% more for coffee now than they did before spring break. Owner of The Oak House Phil Smith said this is because the business is paying higher utility bills and spending more money on ingredients and supplies such as coffee cups and sleeves.

Smith said he wanted to continue to pay his employees well and saw raising prices as the only way to do this. 

“We haven’t done it in about four years, and as time goes on, prices go up — the cost of raw materials is going up, the cost of plastic cups, lids and sleeves,” Smith said. “We had not done it in a long time, but as I had gone around to other shops, either buying or seeing their prices, I realized we were behind the curve about doing those increases.”

Senior Grace Contino said she immediately noticed the change in prices when her regular order got more expensive.  

“My first emotion was confusion, and my second emotion was kind of just, ‘this is how it is.’ Kind of just acceptance,” Contino said. “I still like to come here to do homework and socialize with friends, so it wasn’t really going to impact if I came or not.” 

While other local restaurants in downtown Elon, such as The Root and Tangent, haven’t increased their prices in over a year, a few doors down from The Oak House is Pandora’s Pies, and only one item has gotten more expensive: chicken wings.  

Two weeks ago, eight chicken wings cost around $14. Now, the same order costs $17. Kaitlynn Utley, one of the managers at Pandora’s, said the chicken wings are one of the most popular items on the menu. 

Utley said Pandora’s had to increase the price of chicken wings because the store’s vendor increased the wholesale price, another result of the high inflation rate. According to the USDA National Retail report, chicken wings are costing more in stores across the country.  

Sophomore Josh Cafaro was surprised when he learned how much his order of wings would cost him. 

“That’s concerningly high for not a lot of food,” Cafaro said.  

However, Cafaro said the chicken wings are so delicious that the price hike is worth it. 

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the next inflation update is scheduled for release on May 11, offering the rate of inflation over the 12 months leading up to April 2022.

As inflation becomes visible across the county, Smith said he believes it’s important to maintain the atmosphere of his business — even if it means a price hike. 

“It’s called the hospitality industry for a reason,” Smith said. “The last thing we want to do is say, ‘Oh sorry, I’m gonna take a little bit of your money for providing the service, this product, this hospitality.’ It’s kind of counterintuitive to offering what we offer, and it’s also necessary.”