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Food / August 10, 2022

Rip off Republic: how much is too much for porridge

Food / August 10, 2022

Rip off Republic: how much is too much for porridge

Porridge has hit €12.50 in Dublin 15. People are outraged and astounded. The people of Ireland know when they’re being charged too much. This is one of those times.

In January, an unnamed restaurant charged €14.50 for ‘luxury porridge’, which caused an intense online backlash. Today a new restaurant in Castleknock is charging people €12.50. It’s a staggering number, especially considering that there is nothing extraordinary about this bowl of porridge. It is listed as coming with fresh fruits and honey. Not as organic, locally sourced Irish produce with artisanal Dublin Bee Project honey.

Price Watch

While there is a vast spectrum of porridge. From artisanal to the mush your ma forced you to gulp down as an unwilling infant, in essence, they all are the same. Oats, milk or water and toppings. 

For comparison, this is how much a bowl of porridge in the city; Lovin Spoon: €4.00, Two Boys Brew €5.50, And The Shelbourne charges €7.75 for its porridge served with lavender honey. Where you are basically paying for high-end ingredients in a luxury location.

Brother Hubbard is, in my opinion, the porridge to beat in Dublin, and it’s only €5.50. This bad boy is described as: “Irish Oat Porridge; A warming bowl of Irish organic porridge oats (made with milk) and served one of three ways: your choice of Classic (cream & honey), Berry (seasonal berry compote), or Virtuous (toasted seeds, dried fruit & crystallized ginger)” It ticks every artisanal box and still comes in well under €12.50. 

There’s definitely a demographic willing to spend a bit more for a fancy bowl of porridge. Personally, I choose porridge specifically for its misery. It’s back to basics. Wintertime in the 90s. It’s ‘Please, sir, can I have some more?’. Others choose it for the health benefits in this era of fitness self-optimization. Others still chose it for its aesthetic value. Porridge has been having a moment — you can’t go on Instagram without being bombarded by photos of people’s pretty oats, can you? So it has shed its label as a grim pre-school rainy day breakfast. These people might stretch to the tenner if you’re gonna load it up like an acai bowel and make it gram-able. But even then, more than a tenner is eye-wateringly high.

The Bits and Bobs

While porridge toppings can run the gamut, they’re usually some combination of fruit, chocolate, nuts, nut butter and honey. Fruit, especially berries, can come in a shade expensive. Even more so if they are Irish berries. But we shouldn’t forget that restaurants get wholesale prices on fruit and vegetables. We also can’t blame VAT and taxes here as we can for petrol because VAT on food is the lowest it’s been in years at just 7% currently. 

Sure, inflation can be blamed for these expensive oats, but there is a difference between upping your prices to keep pace with rising costs and extorting customers. No cafe should charge a tenner for oats with milk and a few toppings. 

The History

Porridge has been for generations a poor man’s dish. Oats have been a staple Irish throughout our history. Vast quantities of oats have been consumed in porridge form. When potatoes arrived in the late sixteenth century, the prevalence of porridge sharply declined.

During the twentieth century, the porridge resurgence began. Porridge became an increasingly popular Irish breakfast dish. Fast forward to the TikTok century, and porridge has reclaimed its heavy weirght championship title as the OG nourishing healthy breakfast. 

The long and the short of it is, that we’ve known for many years that porridge is simple and delicious. It can offer a different breakfast every morning, depending on what toppings you add. You can even get porridge described as ‘luxury’ these days.

Paying for Luxury

Is the idea of luxury porridge an oxymoron? Add the word luxury before you sell anything, and just double the price is reminiscent of boom-time price gouging. 

As a child in peak Celtic Tiger rip-off Ireland time, porridge never exceeded a fiver. Nor should it now exceed a tenner, really. I’m giving it a wide margin here. Even artisanal porridge should not cost more than a pint. Imagine telling your ancestors that you paid more for a bowl of porridge than two pints. 

Even if you take into account rent, staff, and electricity. The baseline of porridge costs about the same as coffee. Actually, the basic ingredient oats cost significantly less than coffee beans. This is because most oats are produced locally also, so they don’t have to be imported. 

The Breakdown

If you were to get your Irish oats from SuperValu, the most expensive is €3 for 500g of organic Irish oats. The average wholesale price is €3.45 for 2kg. So just over half price. For argument’s sake, let’s say that a portion of oast in a restaurant is 50g. Then that means the introductory price for a bowl of oats is less than 10cents per bowl. 

Like all good things, a bowl of porridge is more than just the sum of its parts. There’s labour rent, electricity and the works. So I’ve made a graph. After talking to coffee shop managers to get some average prices and cross-referencing, I’ve outlined how much it costs to make fancy porridge. Everything is a little overestimated to account for the rise in production costs. I added 25 per cent for staff and 50 per cent for rent, just in case. 

You probably don’t get enough customers through the door if you have to charge more than a tenner for a basic like porridge. Your waste is perhaps really high, or your rent is too much. Or maybe the investors want a higher return than the usual breakfast spot can yield. Either way, it is too much, and Ireland knows it. However, we are an increasingly discerning consumer base and won’t be ripped off. 

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