Buyers beware: the threat of rising food prices once again hangs over the UK hospitality industry.
Food inflation may have some way to go before it attains levels reached in 2008, when some commodities rose by as much as 10%. Still, the British Retail Consortium and Nielsen figures reveal that it has risen from 1.7% in June to 2.5% in July. They report that this worrying trend is most marked among meat and fruit products.
Rising food prices are a headache at the best of times; but in a period when consumers simply will not stomach having price hikes passed on to them, they have the potential to break any business that is already operating on the margin.
If you want to play the blame game, you could do worse than to start with the Russian Government, whose decision to ban grain exports for the rest of the year is a key contributory factor. But a more constructive use of your energy would be to turn to page 44 of this week's Caterer and take a lesson in hard-nosed bargaining.
We live in a world where everything is negotiable - if you have the necessary skill set. This isn't about displaying the guile and trickery of a card sharp; it's about bringing sound systems and planning to the business of purchasing a product or service.
Do you plan carefully and establish your break point before negotiating a deal? Do you get your opening position on the table first, and do you ensure that your position is extreme yet realistic?
If the answer to any of these questions is "no", you are putting yourself at a disadvantage before negotiations even begin, and leaving your business exposed to the destructive power of food inflation.
Mark Lewis, Editor, Caterer and Hotelkeeper