As Madison gas prices continue soaring, restaurant increases delivery charge: ‘It’s just left us with no option’

Gas Prices Rising

VERONA, Wis. — Less than one month ago, Madison hit its six-month low for an average gallon of gas at $3.29. That was at the tail end of a 14-week downswing in national gas prices that saw average prices nearing $5 per gallon in Wisconsin. Since then, they’ve soared, even more in the Badger State.

Statewide, Wisconsinites are paying an average of $4.056 for a gallon of regular unleaded gas, according to AAA data from Wednesday. The average price is even higher in Dane County at $4.139.

All of southern Wisconsin, except for Vernon County, is seeing average prices of at least $4 per gallon, AAA reports. That’s higher than the national average of $3.83 per gallon.

Those rising prices are affecting consumers in more ways than one.

Like many restaurants, Sugar River Pizza had to add on an additional delivery fee for their orders.

Pre-pandemic, the average order cost the restaurant around $2, but staffing shortages and gas prices have increased that to $5.  The delivery fee goes straight to the drivers, covering their bottom line.

The store has also had to reduce its delivery area.

“A 10-minute drive out to Oregon used to be not that big of a deal, but now that gas is $3.98 a gallon, it’s a little bit more,” said Sarah Thomas, the owner of Sugar River’s Verona location. 

Thomas and delivery manager Benjamin Rindfliesch were clear: the businesses didn’t want to add this fee or reduce their area.

We would love to be able to just send deliveries and keep our delivery business as high as possible,” Thomas said.

“With the rise in gas prices, we had to institute a delivery fee, which is something we never liked doing in the past, but it’s just left us with no option,” Rindfliesch said.

Rindfliesch said he knows Sugar River isn’t alone in feeling the pain at the pump.

“It’s tough, you know, when gas prices are down it really makes up for it but when gas prices are up it seems like we’re lucky to kind of break even.”

RELATED: Why gas prices in Madison are soaring past the national average

A deadly fire at an oil refinery in Toledo, Ohio, was blamed in part for sending prices soaring in Wisconsin. It was originally supposed to be back online early this week, but that date has been pushed back.

“That refinery in Toledo is going to be closed for a couple of months, so what’s going to be happening is that those fuel truck drivers are going to other refineries to bring that gas to Madison, and that can increase the price we pay at the pump,” said Molly Hart, a public relations consultant for AAA. 

A number of other factors, including OPEC’s decision to reduce oil production by two million barrels a day and Hurricane Ian’s wreckage, are further complicating the issue for consumers and delivery drivers alike.

There is one sliver of good news, Hart said.

“The good news is that we have switched to the winter blend of gasoline which is cheaper and less expensive to make,” she said.