clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile
Four tacos in foil.
Tacos from Trippy Tacos.
Nadia Chaudhury/Eater Austin

Filed under:

Tacos Are a Staple in Austin. How Is Inflation Impacting Taco Spots?

Consumer prices were up by 9.1 percent nationally in June. For Austin taco business owners, this means rising costs on everything needed to operate a restaurant.

Tacos have long been the great Austin equalizer. Everyone should be able to afford an al pastor de maiz after a night out or grab a chorizo-and-egg before a busy day at work. But now, as with most things throughout the country, inflation has hit this cherished food staple hard.

Consumer prices were up by 9.1 percent nationally in June, the highest it has been in 40 years. For taco business owners, this leads to rising overhead costs, along with produce and packaging supply chain problems due to labor shortages, all of which have driven general restaurant and food truck prices up significantly across the board in the last twelve months. In Austin, this means family-owned taco trucks like Granny’s and larger chain restaurants like Tacodeli have been forced to increase menu prices on everything from migas to barbacoa tacos.

One of the biggest factors behind the high taco prices is the uneven produce market. “The pandemic, the shutdown of wheat and avocado markets in Ukraine and Mexico, inflation, and the robust demand on products have all influenced the increase in costs,” says Roberto Espinosa, the founder and co-owner of chain restaurant Tacodeli, to Eater over email. He writes that the prices for ingredients and supplies needed for the company have increased in the double-digits, including seafood by over 12 percent and paper and other similar disposable items by over 23 percent.

Another component in soaring produce and product prices is labor costs for transportation and pickups, according to Brent Erenwert, the owner of Brothers Produce, which is one of the largest produce distributors in Texas. “Labor is your biggest driving force of everything,” he tells Eater. “Nothing can get back to a form of normality until labor stabilizes.”

Produce distribution relies heavily on truck transportation. Erenwert explains that many smaller purveyors have been losing drivers to larger corporations like Amazon and Walmart due to higher wages. Big-box retailers also control a larger share of the general shipping industry, which makes it difficult for smaller companies to distribute their goods, forcing them to increase rates. Brothers sells around 10 million cases of produce annually from 2019 to 2022, according to Erenwert. The average case price went from $18 in 2019 to $20 in 2021 to $24 this year.

Luckily, Erenwert hasn’t had as much trouble retaining labor since he’s always believed in paying his drivers well with what he describes as an “above-industry average pay scale.” He adds: “If you’re not investing in your people, the cost to replace them is so big.”

Another major aspect behind high costs is the physical shortage of produce because farmers weren’t sure how much to actually grow during the instability of the pandemic, since restaurants couldn’t function normally. Normally, sellers anticipate seasonal dips and weather-related shortages, but now, global warming and climate changes make regions particularly susceptible to hurricanes and other natural disasters. “We’re seeing the effects months later,” says Erenwert. “I’m hoping that people realize now that you don’t just throw seeds in the ground and stuff grows.” Cultivating crops takes a lot of time, energy, and investment.


In Austin, second-generation taqueria owner Rey Hernandez of Granny’s Tacos has worked hard to keep prices reasonable for the truck’s overstuffed homestyle tacos. After he inherited the business from his mother Maria Rios Vega last December, he had to raise breakfast taco prices. He’s been successful at keeping employees by paying them $20 per hour on top of tips.

Four tacos spread out in foils.
Tacos from Granny’s Tacos.
Granny’s Tacos

“People tell me, ‘Rey, make the tacos smaller.’ I’m not going to do that,” says Hernandez. Instead of reducing the size or quality of his tacos, he tries to recuperate costs by mixing his own seasonings and scouring wholesale markets for deals on meat and eggs. During one particular carne asada shortage in January when wholesalers restricted the amount of the specific meat available for purchase, he spent hours carving chuck roast from Costco into what he needed.

Along with edible ingredients, plastic containers and utensils — taco vendor necessities — are also directly impacted by those high shipping costs mentioned earlier. Many plastic products in America are shipped over by Chinese manufacturers. Veracruz All Natural’s media coordinator Ryan Myers (who is also co-owner Reyna Vazquez’s husband) tells Eater over email that in the last 12 months as of August, the trucks and restaurants’ plastics expenditures rose between 30 to 100 percent and aluminum between 50 to 100 percent.

Determined small business owners like Hernandez can turn chuck roast into carne asada with extra time and labor, but that’s just a temporary fix for a troubled economy. In the meantime, many taco spots have had to increase prices in order to account for their higher costs of products and labor.

Below, Eater aggregated changes in taco prices over the past years from nine local taco restaurants and trucks around Austin, with a mixture of established chains, neighborhood food trucks, and independently-owned businesses. Price information was collected via dated photos of menu items and/or directly from sellers.

Granny’s Tacos

Tacos October 2021 September 2022
Tacos October 2021 September 2022
Breakfast $2.50 $3.00
Speciality $3.50 $4.25

Papalote Taco House

Tacos August 2020 August 2022 September 2022
Tacos August 2020 August 2022 September 2022
Breakfast $2.25 $2.25 $2.84
Specialty $3.75 $4.20 $4.20

Veracruz All Natural

Tacos October 2020 August 2021 September 2022
Tacos October 2020 August 2021 September 2022
Migas $3.50 $3.75 $5.00
Al Pastor $4.00 $4.25 $4.75
Three tacos in foil.
Tacos from Veracruz All Natural.
Nadia Chaudhury/Eater Austin

Tacodeli

Tacos August 2020 August 2022 September 2022
Tacos August 2020 August 2022 September 2022
Two-Ingredient Breakfast $2.15 $2.75 $3.00
The Otto $3.15 $3.95 $4.25
Beef Specialty $4.25 $4.50 $5.25

Las Trancas

Tacos August 2021 October 2021 August 2022
Tacos August 2021 October 2021 August 2022
Bean & Cheese $2.50 $2.75 $3.00
Tripa $2.50 $2.75 $3.25
Barbacoa $2.50 $2.75 $3.25

Cuantos Tacos

Items August 2020 May 2021 September 2022
Items August 2020 May 2021 September 2022
Taco $2.00 $2.00 $2.25
Costra n/a $3.00 $3.00
Quesadilla $5.00 $5.00 $7.00
Bebida $2.00 $2.00 $3.00
A tray of three tacos.
Tacos from Cuantos Tacos.
Nadia Chaudhury/Eater Austin

Torchy’s Tacos

Tacos February 2020 January 2021 September 2022
Tacos February 2020 January 2021 September 2022
Bacon, Egg, & Cheese $2.80 $3.00 $3.40
Ranch Hand $3.80 $3.95 $4.45
Trailer Park $4.00 $4.50 $4.65

Trippy Tacos

Tacos June 2020 September 2022
Tacos June 2020 September 2022
Breakfast Tacos $2.50 $2.50
Barbacoa $3.50 $3.50
Trippy Taco $4.00 $4.00
Alambre $3.25 $4.00

Pueblo Viejo

Tacos August 2021 September 2022
Tacos August 2021 September 2022
Breakfast $3.40 $3.75
Al Pastor $3.40 $3.85
Pueblo Viejo-style $4.65 $5.35

Trippy Tacos

Manchaca, Austin, TX 78704

Pueblo Viejo

502 Brushy Street, , TX 78702 (512) 373-6557 Visit Website

Veracruz All Natural

2505 Webberville Road, , TX 78702 (512) 981-1760 Visit Website

Las Trancas

, , Texas 78702

Tacodeli

301 Congress Avenue, , TX 78701 (512) 601-6631 Visit Website

Torchy's Tacos

1822 South Congress Avenue, , TX 78704 (512) 916-9025 Visit Website

Cuantos Tacos

1108 East 12th Street, , TX 78702 Visit Website

Papalote

2803 South Lamar Boulevard, , TX 78704 (512) 804-2474 Visit Website
Coming Attractions

Texas Winery Lost Draw Cellars Opens a New Tasting Room in Johnson City

Eater Guides

Where to Partake in Festive Holiday Dining and Drinking Experiences in Austin

Restaurant News Brief

A Car Crashed Into New Irish Bar Kelly’s in South Austin

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Eater Austin newsletter

The freshest news from the local food world