Close this search box.

Table of Contents

Menu Costs


Menu costs refer to the expenses companies face when they change the prices of their products or services. This term is primarily used in the context of economics and is based on the metaphor of a restaurant needing to reprint its menu due to price changes. The costs encompass resources spent in altering systems, updating materials, and informing customers, among others.


The phonetics of the keyword “Menu Costs” is: ˈmen.yuː kɔːsts

Key Takeaways


  1. Definition: Menu Costs refer to the costs associated with a business changing its prices. It is the cost incurred by firms in order to change their prices in reaction to changes in the economic market. These may be direct physical costs, such as the price of printing new menus, or indirect costs, like the time taken to update systems.
  2. Impact: Menu Costs can lead to ‘sticky prices’ , where businesses are reluctant to change their prices despite changes in supply or demand. This can result in a slow response to inflationary or deflationary tendencies in an economy and can ultimately affect the economic balance.
  3. Reduction Strategies: Businesses can aim to reduce menu costs through efficient processes and digitization. For example, adopting digital pricing systems can mitigate the direct costs of frequent price changes, and systematic price review strategies can minimize the impact of indirect costs.



Menu costs are important in business and finance because they represent the cost which a firm incurs to change its prices, which can include tangible costs like printing new menus or reprogramming pricing systems, as well as intangible costs like the potential confusion or dissatisfaction of customers. These costs can create a barrier to adjusting prices, causing firms to keep prices static even when there are changes in supply, demand, or production costs. As such, menu costs can contribute to price stickiness, a phenomenon where market prices do not respond immediately or smoothly to changes in demand or supply, causing inefficiencies in the market. The concept of menu costs is thus vital for understanding business pricing strategies and the dynamics of market economies.


In the field of business and finance, menu costs serve a significant part in the total costs an organization incurs when it adjusts or changes its prices. This concept, named as such due to the literal costs of printing new menus when a restaurant adjusts the prices of its dishes, takes into account multiple aspects. These could range from costs associated with the time spent to redetermine pricing, to directly communicating and implementing these changes across the business, through updated price tags, labels, and digital systems.The purpose of considering menu costs is to understand the broader economic implications of changing prices. In a volatile economic climate where prices need to be frequently updated, these costs can stack up and seriously impact a company’s resources. Additionally, it can provide an explanation of ‘price stickiness’ observed in the market, which refers to the resistance of a seller to change prices even when there are demonstrable shifts in market demand or cost of inputs. Even though it might seem worthwhile to adjust prices to match market shifts, the overall cost and effort of doing so (the menu costs) might deter businesses from making these changes. In other words, ‘menu costs’ helps businesses to understand the indirect costs of price adjustments and make more informed pricing decisions.


1. Restaurant Industry: This is probably the most literal example. Restaurants frequently face menu costs, especially when they need to change prices due to fluctuating ingredient costs. This involves redesigning and reprinting menus which is time-consuming and costly, especially for high-end restaurants where the cost of printing can be high.2. Retail Stores: Retailers also encounter menu costs whenever they adjust the prices of their products. For instance, if a clothing store needs to change price tags due to shifts in material costs, exchange rates, or seasonal sales, the time and labor invested in this process can add up, along with the hard cost of new labels or digital updates.3. Manufacturing Firms: In manufacturing companies, menu costs are often related to updates in product catalogs or price lists. If the cost of raw materials changes, the company needs to decide whether to absorb that cost or pass it onto the customers. If they choose the latter, it would mean updating and republishing their price lists or catalogs, creating a significant menu cost.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What are menu costs?

Menu costs are the expenses incurred by firms when they change their prices. This could be anything from the physical act of changing a price tag to the cost of updating systems or communicating new prices.

Are menu costs solely related to physical menu changes in restaurants?

No, the term ‘menu costs’ broadly refers to costs associated with any price changes, not solely those related to physical menus in a restaurant context. It applies to a wide variety of businesses and industries.

How do menu costs impact a business?

Menu costs can impact a business by increasing its overall operation costs. Frequent price changes might lead to higher expenses as businesses need to invest the time, resources and manpower to reflect these changes.

Why are menu costs considered an element of ‘sticky prices’?

Menu costs contribute to what economists call ‘sticky prices,’ which is the resistance of a price to change quickly despite changes in market conditions. Since changing prices incurs a cost, companies may be more likely to maintain current prices to avoid these costs.

Could menu costs directly influence a company’s pricing strategy?

Yes, the menu costs could indeed influence a company’s pricing strategy. Companies might avoid frequent price changes to lessen the expenses associated with menu costs.

Can menu costs be reduced?

While it might not be possible to entirely avoid menu costs, businesses can reduce them through careful planning and efficient change management. With the rise of digital technologies, some menu costs (like physical signage adjustments) can be mitigated.

What’s a real-world example of menu costs?

A real-world example of a menu cost could involve a retail store that needs to change the price of an item. They would have to print and place new price tags, train workers to understand the new price, and adapt marketing materials accordingly. These are all costs associated with the price change.

What is the role of menu costs in inflation?

In economic theories, specifically in New Keynesian economics, menu costs play a role in explaining why firms might not immediately adjust their prices with respect to the changes in the economy, resulting in ‘price stickiness’. This unwillingness or delay in changing prices can influence inflation rates.

Related Finance Terms

Sources for More Information

About Due

Due makes it easier to retire on your terms. We give you a realistic view on exactly where you’re at financially so when you retire you know how much money you’ll get each month. Get started today.

Due Fact-Checking Standards and Processes

To ensure we’re putting out the highest content standards, we sought out the help of certified financial experts and accredited individuals to verify our advice. We also rely on them for the most up to date information and data to make sure our in-depth research has the facts right, for today… Not yesterday. Our financial expert review board allows our readers to not only trust the information they are reading but to act on it as well. Most of our authors are CFP (Certified Financial Planners) or CRPC (Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor) certified and all have college degrees. Learn more about annuities, retirement advice and take the correct steps towards financial freedom and knowing exactly where you stand today. Learn everything about our top-notch financial expert reviews below… Learn More