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Dinosaurs Confronts Inflation: How Rising Costs Are Hitting Your Food Tab

Written by Kevin Truong, Chris ChangPublished Aug. 22, 2022 • 5:19pm
Caption: Dinosaurs Sandwiches, a popular Vietnamese food business with three locations in San Francisco, said inflation has increased the prices of sugar, fish sauce, rice noodles and many more items. | Sophie Bearman/The Standard

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Visitors to Dinosaurs, a local Vietnamese sandwich chain, are greeted by an understated black-and-white notice in the window with small type. 

The posting, which has columns labeled “Original Price” and “Recent Price,” lists the impact of inflation on many of the shop’s key materials. Organic cane sugar, for example? It’s up from $48.50 for a 50-pound bag to $60 more recently. 

Dinosaurs, which operates three locations in San Francisco and one in Pacifica, was recently named by state Sen. Scott Wiener as one of his favorite spots in the city. The business is known for its array of bánh mì sandwiches filled with toppings like crispy tofu, lemongrass grilled chicken and pickled daikon, that are encased in a baguette with a toothsome crunch.

@sfstandard Here’s how inflation is impacting one SF small business. #sandwich #sanfrancisco #banhmi #vietnamese #restaurant #bayarea #bayareafoodies #fyp ♬ Advertising background music – TimTaj

But many of these ingredients have seen rapid price increases in recent months. A case of rice paper is up 24% to $72, a 5-gallon container of soy sauce and a case of fish sauce (both key elements in Vietnamese cuisine) are up more than 40%. 

Even the sides aren’t immune. A case of Dinosaurs’ honey butter chips, a unique sweet and savory snack—which are imported from Asia—saw their prices go from $15.20 to $19.20.

“We’re not trying to make it completely overpriced or continually raise the prices, but we’re kind of in this situation where in order to stay in business we have to make these slight increases,” said CJ Baarde, the manager of Dinosaurs’ Castro location. 

Caption: Dinosaurs Sandwiches, a popular Vietnamese food business with three locations in San Francisco, posted a notice listing the impact of inflation on its goods. | Sophie Bearman/The Standard

While federal officials have made bringing inflation down one of their key economic priorities, the price increases are still taking a toll. Stack on labor issues and pandemic-related revenue fluctuations, and it’s no small wonder small businesses are feeling the crunch. 

Locally, inflation figures were around 6.8% in June, lower than national averages. But that’s mainly due to already-high rents failing to increase in line with the rest of the country. 

Food prices, however, saw an increase of 10.8% in June year-over-year. 

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But Dinosaur’s price hikes are not just limited to food. Perhaps the most shocking spike was the cost of vinyl gloves meant to keep operations sanitary, which more than doubled from $32 to $82.

Still, the limited price increases forced by inflation did not dissuade the line of customers waiting for their orders. 

Paul Allen, a lunchtime visitor who works at a nearby Castro gym, had a sympathetic take on the increased cost of his sandwich as he unwrapped and readied himself to tuck into his recent purchase. 

“It doesn’t surprise me when I go into a restaurant and I see they’ve had a price increase because I would be surprised if they didn’t,” Allen said. “My own food budget has gone up at least $200 a month.”

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