Fast Food Chains That Have Unreasonable Prices Following the Minimum Wage Hike

By: Lauren | Published: Apr 22, 2024

Over the past twenty years, the cost of fast food in the United States has increased significantly. Gone are the days of $1 burgers and value menu french fries; today, a meal can cost $20 or more.

Many say these new prices are absolutely outrageous, and some worry that with California’s new minimum wage legislation that offers $20 to all fast food workers, the price tags are going to skyrocket this year.

Starbucks’ Charging More Than Ever Before

At this point, Starbucks is essentially synonymous with coffee. With over 17,000 locations in the United States alone, the company racks in a whopping $36.68 billion in net revenue every year. But Americans and other Starbucks fans around the world are starting to express their frustrations with the ever-increasing price tags on their favorite coffee drinks.

A Starbucks frappuccino seen on an outdoor table in front of the famous coffee shop

Source: iStock

While customers can still get a small regular latte for $3.25, sizing up, opting for plant-based milk, or adding a second shot of espresso increases the cost by several dollars. According to one study, the average person spends $12 every time they go to Starbucks.


Panera Bread Is Increasing Its Prices This Year

Panera Bread also serves specialty coffees, as well as homemade bread, soups, sandwiches, and salads, making it the perfect spot for friends or those trying to eat a little healthier on their lunch break.

A promotional photo from Panera Bread of its new chicken sandwich with an iced tea

Source: @PaneraBread/Facebook

For decades, Panera has been famous for its fresh and affordable food, specifically the You-Pick-Two menu, where customers could order half a sandwich, soup, or salad for the perfect lunch. In the early 2010s, a You-Pick-Two meal cost between $6.49 and $7.99; now, it costs more than double at $16.

Taco Bell Has Always Been the Cheapest Option

Taco Bell has always been considered one of (if not the) cheapest fast food options. With tacos for just $0.59, burrito meals with two tacos and a drink for $4.99, and $2 combos, one could have an absolute feast for less than $10.

Several tacos from Taco Bell alongside a pile of its famous sauces

Source: Reddit

Now, Taco Bell is still the more affordable choice compared to some of its competitors, but that doesn’t mean it’s not raising its prices at a similar rat

e. As of 2024, the only item less than $1 is a Cheesy Roll-Up, and the standard taco, which once cost two or three quarters, is now $1.99.

Five Guys: “Highway Robbery”

Five Guys first opened its doors in Virginia in 1986, and since then, it has become a nationwide sensation. The popular and unique burger joint was always considered expensive compared to its competitors like McDonald’s or Burger King, but customers usually agreed that it was worth a couple more dollars.

A Five Guys cheeseburger, fries, and a drink on a wooden table

Source: Reddit

However, as of March 2024, the beloved bacon cheeseburger is now $12.49, a regular soda is $2.89, and a small portion of fries is $5.19. One man who bought this exact order ended up paying $24 for his meal with a 10% tip, and the internet has exploded in outrage. An X user said, “5 dollars for a small fry is highway robbery.”

Some Items at Burger King in California Increased by $4

Burger King hasn’t been shy about the fact that it is raising its prices in California restaurants, specifically in response to the governor’s new minimum wage law. While other companies blame inflation, Burger King increased its prices the very same day the minimum wage law went into effect to make its point.

Exterior of a Burger King Restaurant

Source: iStock

On March 29, 2024, a Texas Double Whopper meal at Burger King cost $15.09, but on April 1, that price jumped up to $16.89; the Big Fish Meal jumped from $7.49 to $11.49.


California’s Favorite Burger: In-N-Out

Though there are certainly some who would debate it, the majority of California residents agree that In-N-Out is the official burger of the Golden State. Since it opened in Baldwin Park in 1948, Californians have bragged about their perfect burgers, which were just as cheap as McDonald’s but way better.

A burger combo meal from In-N-Out Burger

Source: Reddit

In 2001, a Double-Double burger cost $2.50, and an order of French fries was only $0.99; as of 2024, the same menu items cost $4.90 and $2.15, respectively. Because In-N-Out started off as less expensive, this may seem like a smaller increase, but it’s still double what it was 20 years ago.


No More $5 Footlongs at Subway

Subway has been consistently profitable essentially since its inception, thanks to its unique menu and fresh ingredients. Additionally, Subway has worked hard to promote popular discounts, like the famous $5 footlong, to ensure customer retention.

The inside of a Subway restaurant

Source: Shutterstock

However, the days of $5 footlong are long gone; today a 12-inch sub can cost anywhere between $6.49 and $11.49, and that’s not including chips or a drink.


Chipotle Plans to Raise Its Prices This Year

Chipotle is another fan-favorite that has announced it will most likely be raising its prices thanks to the increase in minimum wage in California.

Exterior of a Chipotle restaurant with the red sign

Source: Adobe Stock

Their famous bowls cost customers only $6.45 in 2001, but now, more than twenty years later, they range from $8.30 to $12.45. The corporation has announced that it will increase those prices by another 7-8% in 2024.


Pizza Hut Isn’t as Affordable as It Once Was

Pizza Hut has also significantly increased its prices in recent years. What was once a great option for feeding one’s family on a budget, the fast food pizza joint now feels like an extravagance for some.

A promotional photo for Pizza Hut of a man reaching for a pepperoni pizza

Source: @PizzaHut/Facebook

In 2010, customers could order any large pizza on the menu and pay less than $10. Now, a 14” pizza costs at least $15.59, and specialty pizzas, like the Meat Lovers, Veggie Lovers, or Buffalo Chicken, will set them back an almost unbelievable $23.99. 


What About Wendy’s?

Only ten years ago, Wendy’s offered its customers the opportunity to purchase 4 menu items for $4. From Jr. Bacon Cheeseburgers to fries, chicken nuggets, and a fountain soda, there was a wide variety of options available for just $1.

Sign for a Wendy’s fast food restaurant

Source: iStock

In 2024, that same Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger is $2.69, and the chicken nuggets are $1.89. Surprisingly, Wendy’s prices haven’t increased nearly as much as some of their competitors, though there are rumors that they will surge in 2025.


KFC Now Costs a Lot More to Feed the Family

Kentucky Fried Chicken, KFC, has been a family favorite for decades. The large bucket-style menu, family-sized sides, and affordable price point have always made it a great option for Americans on a budget.

Hands reaching for chicken from several boxes of KFC

Source: Adobe Stock

But just like everywhere else on this list, KFC has also increased its price tags to far more than what they were before. The 12-piece chicken meal was only $22.00 in 2020, now it’s almost double at $34.99.