San Luis Obispo County merchants may pass higher gas costs along to customers

As the average price of regular unleaded gasoline rose nearly 20 cents during the past week in San Luis Obispo County to $4.10 a gallon Tuesday, the increased expense has reduced profits for businesses that rely on vehicle deliveries.

“I watch gas prices very, very closely,” said Sam Raban, owner of Sam’s Giant Manhattan Pizza in Pismo Beach. “When gas prices go up, it affects every aspect of my business. The price of cheese, pepperoni, boxes, paper goods all goes up.” To help cut costs, Raban has contracted with local delivery services.

Café Runner is one of those businesses. In operation for 17 years, the company employs 10 people. Delivery drivers are paid minimum wage plus $1 for every delivery.

“My drivers are the ones who are really feeling the effects of rising prices,” said Brian Breon, owner of Café Runner. If prices continue to go up, he added, he’ll have to start paying them more. And that will affect everyone from the owners of the restaurants they serve to the customers waiting for their deliveries.

“The price always trickles down to the consumer,” Breon said.

The highest recorded average for a gallon of unleaded gas in San Luis Obispo County was $4.68 in June 2008, according to a survey by AAA.

Gas prices usually peak in the summer months, when demand typically increases. However, at least one oil analyst said drivers may decide to stay home if prices at the pump continue to rise.

San Bernardino resident Rick Evans, who was filling up his Chevrolet Suburban with unleaded fuel Tuesday at the Shell gas station on Shell Beach Road in Pismo Beach, said it would probably cost him $120 or more to do so.

“But it’s still cheaper here than it is in San Bernardino,” he said, noting that he thinks “we’ll definitely see gas go to $5 a gallon” by this summer — a point made by some oil analysts last week.