Why Are Kebabs So Expensive?

The picture you get in your head when someone mentions kebabs can vary. Maybe it’s several small skewer sticks overloaded with pieces of meat, slices of bell pepper, and mushrooms searing on the grill. For others, it’s the tall kebab stick slowly rotating a huge amount of meat that is then carved out and added to pita bread or tortilla. Those might be vastly different (at first glance) ways of cooking that are both called kebobs, but one thing they both have in common: they’re mouth-watering and delicious!

This brings up a common question: Why are kebabs so expensive?

In this article I’m going to look at the main reasons why kebabs are increasingly expensive, what’s causing that, and why this is increasingly becoming an issue in so many places for so many fans of this delicious quick meal.

Let’s jump into it!

shawarma in pita bread
Despite the rising prices I’ll still take two…maybe three?

Location Affects How Expensive Kebabs Are

Expensive is a relative term but depending on where you’re buying from, these might seem disproportionately expensive compared to other options. Just a short list of places where kebab prices are on the high end include:

  • New York City
  • San Francisco
  • London
  • Paris
  • Touristy cities in SE Asia

If there’s a theme here, it’s that kebabs seem to be in abundance in locations that are known for being more expensive. The other is that these are extremely popular types of food (very easy to understand) which also means there’s always going to be demand.

When high demand meets popular or high priced areas, you’re going to have rising prices and the same as appeared to happen to many, many places where the popularity of kebabs has recently surged. Add in supply issues making it harder in some places to get a good kebab and it shouldn’t be too surprising that with high demand the price continues to go up.

Why Are Kebabs So Expensive in the UK?

The Doner Kebab has been extremely popular in Britain as a filling, delicious hot meal that is very easy to carry on the go – much more so than fish and chips or a curry dish (though no one is suggesting the kebab, as delicious as it is, is ever going to replace either of those dishes). Kebabs have grown in popularity, but their price actually varies quite a bit depending on if you’re looking for one in London, Edinburgh, or elsewhere.

Food in various cities in the UK just tends to be more expensive, London is notorious among travelers as a place where you just can’t find a delicious meal on the cheap, but it turns out that according to this article, the most expensive place to have a kebab in the United Kingdom is actually in Edinburgh, Scotland.

As an interesting side note, you can also find the most expensive kebab in the entire world in the United Kingdom as London’s famous Hazev restaurant serves a kebab that costs a whopping 925 Pounds!

Fortunately for the rest of us, the average price, even of expensive London street kebabs, will pale by comparison.

There’s a discussion on this Redditt Thread of how much a kebab should cost in the UK, and even though it’s kind of old it does bring up some interesting points worth noting for British kebab enthusiasts. Even though the thread is over 5 years old, so take the actual price discussions worth a grain of salt, but it brings up good points like the part of the United Kingdom you’re in, the type of restaurant/food place you get the kebab from, and other similar factors all come into play when looking at just how much a good street kebab is going to cost.

meat being sliced off kebab
There is just something deeply satisfying about seeing the slow roasted kebab meat sliced in front of you before being placed in the flat bread.

Why Are Kebabs So Expensive in Germany?

Customers have been distressed about rising kebab prices in Germany, but as this article also covers very well, those rising prices are probably a long time from being done. Kebabs aren’t the only food rising in price in Germany as most of the lower cost fast food or snack food has seen rising prices across the country.

If anything, the general consensus around those in the kebab business is that although kebabs have gone from 3 Euro and change to 5 Euro on average, they would actually be closer to 7 Euro if the high prices of ingredients were fully figured in. In other words, kebab owners are taking a hit on margins even at 5 Euros with prices where they currently sit.

The biggest thing that could stop the rises in prices would be to see ingredients and supplies fall back to a much more reasonable price range and become widely available again. Vegetable oil in particular has been scarce and ridiculously expensive, but the rising prices with other things like supporting utensils, baskets, and food ingredients.

If these prices stabilize, the price of kebabs in Germany, where Doner Kebabs in particular are wildly popular, they would probably stabilize in price, as well. It’s unlikely they’d go back down to old prices…but it might avoid the rise to 7 Euro kebabs that might otherwise be in the short-term future.

Why Are Kebabs So Expensive in Sweden?

This is a bit harder to pin down other than going to the tried and true “inflation and demand,” but kebabs, like many things, are more expensive in Sweden and some people have definitely noticed and started asking questions about it. As of 2020 a kebab in many cities in Sweden ran 85 to 95 Swedish Kroner, which comes out to around $8.30-$9.30, which is definitely going to get a whistle from some people who have resigned themselves to the fact a $5 bill doesn’t get you what it used to…but they didn’t expect a Swedish kebab to be that much more.

Especially with the number of kebab shops available thanks to a healthy influx of Turkish immigrants.

But as the video below shows, the question of expensive kebabs definitely are at front and center of this individual’s mind.

This man, asking all the important questions for kebab-lovers here!

Why Are Kebabs So Expensive in the United States?

Generally speaking, kebabs aren’t all that expensive in comparison to many other fast food options found in the same area. The main thing working against kebab lovers in the United States even beyond the inflation jumps of 2022 is that while the popularity of kebabs is growing in the United States, it’s not as widespread as it is in areas such as Europe or Southeast Asia.

That means that the more likely places to find kebab places are going to be major metropolitan centers like New York, Chicago, or other major American cities. And as any business knows, the bigger the city, generally the more expensive things like commercial rent and wages are. And higher expenses for the restaurant means higher prices for the customers otherwise the kebab house can’t break even.

Since kebabs haven’t made their way to smaller U.S. cities (yet) but still tend to be a larger city thing, that also just inherently means higher prices as larger cities will almost always, as a general rule, have more expensive goods and services than a smaller urban area.

Why are Kebabs So Expensive in Italy?

Italy has suffered from some of the same inflationary pressures as many other areas in the EU, but there’s another reason why kebab shops you find in the home of ancient Rome might be more pricy than you’re used to: they’re a limited commodity.

What does that mean? There are many cities in Italy, with Venice being the most famous and recognized one, where the opening of new fast food shops including any kebab shops, is banned, usually in order to “Preserve the historical integrity.

For kebab lovers, that’s a bummer, and it also means that with fewer places where kebabs are available at all, that higher demand means they can charge higher prices because often there just isn’t as much competition.

Explosive Popularity

When something is exploding in popularity in the free market, it tends to get more expensive, and as discussed in our article about doner kebabs, there’s no denying just how popular these are becoming and in cities where previously there had not been many…and cities where the cost of living is quite high in the case of places in Europe like London, Paris, or Berlin.

The supply line issues post-Covid have made everything more expensive and the resulting inflation certainly hasn’t helped things, either. As long as there is a high demand for kebabs, and let’s face it, with how delicious they are it’s hard to see a situation up coming where that won’t be the case, the price of kebabs is likely to be stable or go up and get more expensive versus go the other direction and end up on sale.

But let’s dive further into the question of why kebabs are so expensive and see if we can pinpoint some of the main causes, especially if there are any location-based ones (some bad news for the Scottish on this front).

Let’s dive further into what these delicious and popular street treats have to offer.

Why Pay for Expensive Kebabs?

Can you really put a price on truly amazing kebabs…especially when you’re craving them? To some extent, yes, however kebabs are delicious and a good one is something to crave. While the reasons for expensive kebabs vary, especially depending on where you’re at, most places also have inexpensive kebab options that are mouth-watering and delicious.

Also consider that many of the best kebab places are in cities where even a street corner license, much less a small amount of space, requires enormous amounts for rent. When you consider what has to be spent on the food, wages, equipment, that means even for a high-volume seller you need to be moving a lot of kebabs to make up those expenses.

Let’s face it: sometimes you want a hot meal that’s portable, and kebabs do that well, they go with fries (or chips if you’re British) and this is worth way more than a tasteless $5 burger from McDonald’s.

Kebabs are delicious and hopefully the prices stabilize over time, especially before I show up for another visit, but it’s something that we may just need to dig a little bit deeper for a favorite food.