Fast-Food Prices Spark Outrage Among Millions in the U.S.

By: Georgia | Published: May 08, 2024

Fast food prices have jumped a significant 33% since 2019, overtaking the grocery price increase of 26% during the same timeframe. 

Families and individuals who rely on fast food for quick, cost-effective meals are finding their budgets increasingly strained.

Big Mac Price Shock

Imagine paying $17.59 for a Big Mac meal

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A person unpacks multiple McDonald's takeout bags on a kitchen table, with items like a Big Mac box and various sauces visible

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That’s the reality at one McDonald’s in Connecticut, sparking widespread outrage on social media as affordable fast food becomes a distant memory for many.

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'Greedflation' in the Fast Food Industry

The buzzword ‘greedflation’ is becoming popular as consumers accuse major chains like McDonald’s and KFC of unjustifiably high prices. 

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Close-up of a KFC meal consisting of crispy fried chicken pieces in a paper bucket and French fries in a white bowl, set on a table with a striped yellow placemat

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The hikes are seen as excessive and a source of financial stress.

Dine-Out Downturn

Revenue Management Solutions reports a 3.5% decline in fast food visits this year.

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A person holds a KFC chicken sandwich, partially bitten, with visible layers of chicken, sauce, and pickles

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This suggests that higher prices are causing people to rethink how often they eat out, affecting popular chains everywhere.

McDonald’s Price Doubling

FinanceBuzz reports that since 2014, prices at McDonald’s have doubled. 

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A close-up of a glowing McDonald's sign illuminated in red against a dark night background

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This trend is pushing fast food beyond the reach of consumers looking for quick, wallet-friendly meals.

Broad Price Increases

The last decade has seen dramatic price increases not just at McDonald’s, but at Popeyes and Taco Bell too, with rises of 86% and 81%, respectively. 

Exterior view of a Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen fast-food restaurant, featuring a stone facade and red awnings over the windows, with promotional signs displayed

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Fast food is quickly losing its reputation as an affordable option.

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Beyond Burgers and Fries

The pain of inflation is also hitting coffee lovers and sandwich fans. 

A sub sandwich filled with layers of ham, cheese, vegetables, and condiments, wrapped in branded paper on a table

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Starbucks and Subway have upped their prices by 39%, reflecting economic shifts impacting a wide range of fast dining spots.

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Domino’s Price Consistency

While most chains are upping their prices, Domino’s holds its ground, keeping its mix-and-match deal at $6.99. 

Exterior of a Domino's Pizza restaurant with a large blue and white sign featuring the brand's logo. The store has clear glass windows, a few red chairs visible outside, and a tropical setting with palm trees

Source: Wikimedia Commons

CEO Russell Weiner’s strategy is simple. He said, “Customers just don’t want surprises.”

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California’s Rising Wages Impact Prices

A new $20 minimum wage for fast food workers in California is causing price hikes at local outlets. 

Interior view of a Popeyes restaurant showing the counter and menu displays. The menu screens list various chicken dishes, sides, and meals. Employees are visible behind the counter preparing orders

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Chains warn that these increased costs will be passed down to consumers, raising prices further.

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Insight from McDonald's CEO

In a recent earnings call, McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempczinski discussed changing consumer behaviors.

A tray at McDonald's containing a chicken sandwich, a small fries, packets of ketchup, and a cup of orange juice

Source: Wikimedia Commons

He said, “The consumer is certainly being very discriminating in how they spend their dollar.”

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Starbucks Faces Customer Retreat

Starbucks is witnessing its worst quarterly traffic drop since 2010.

A close-up of a Starbucks cold brew coffee with cream swirling through the iced dark coffee, served in a clear plastic cup with the Starbucks logo

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They saw a 7% decline, which signals a shift in consumer behavior as prices rise.

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Fast Food Prices Surge Beyond Inflation

The Daily Mail reports that according to the U.S. Labor Department, fast food prices have risen 33% since 2019, far exceeding the CPI’s 19% rise. 

A hand holding a gourmet burger with a beef patty, cheese, lettuce, and tomato in a sesame bun, alongside a box of crinkle-cut fries

Source: Wikimedia Commons

This disparity points to significant inflationary pressures in the fast food sector, impacting consumer choices and market dynamics.

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