Restaurant chains are trying out new strategies to cope with higher food prices at a time when still-skittish consumers aren't likely to respond well to higher menu prices. Starbucks is partnering on purchasing deals with nonrival restaurant companies to keep its costs down. Darden Restaurants has a plan to automate its supply chain so that it buys only the ingredients it needs for Red Lobster, Olive Garden and their sister chains. Meanwhile, big players including McDonald's are engaging in commodity-price hedging to offset the effects of higher food costs.
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