McDonald’s President Claims $18 Big Mac Meal Is an “Exception”

By: Julia Mehalko | Published: May 30, 2024

McDonald’s USA President Joe Erlinger recently commented on reporting that one of their franchises in Connecticut was selling an $18 Big Mac combo meal.

According to Erlinger, this expensive meal was simply an “exception”, rather than something that was seen around many other McDonald’s in the country.

An $18 Big Mac Meal

Social media users and the media jumped on a user’s post on X, formerly known as Twitter, that showed the user had spent a whopping $18 on a simple Big Mac meal last summer.

A person eating McDonald’s fries and a Big Mac on a wooden table.

Source: Annie Spratt/Unsplash

Many people pointed to this very expensive McDonald’s meal in annoyance, as fast food menu prices have skyrocketed in the last few years alone.


High Inflation Is Driving Up Prices

Many fast food eateries, including McDonald’s, have seen their menu prices rise thanks to high inflation experienced throughout the United States.

A McDonald’s restaurant building seen in the daytime.

Source: TaurusEmerald/Wikimedia Commons

However, 2024 has begun to see consumers dealing with price fatigue. Customers are no longer willing to continue spending a lot of money on items they previously spent less on.

Fighting Back Against These Allegations

In a letter to customers, Erlinger fought back against this new reporting and recent allegations, stating that this highly-priced Big Mac combo meal was simply an “exception.”

A close-up of a Big Mac McDonald’s meal with fries.

Source: Brett Jordan/Unsplash

“I can tell you that it frustrates and worries me, and many of our franchisees, when I hear about an $18 Big Mac meal being sold — even if it was at one location in the U.S. out of more than 13,700,” he said. “More worrying, though, is when people believe that this is the rule and not the exception, or when folks start to suggest that the prices of a Big Mac have risen 100% since 2019.”

McDonald’s Franchisees Set Prices

Erlinger did admit that 95% of all McDonald’s locations in the United States are owned and operated by franchisees. These owners also set their own pricing.

Three McDonald’s Happy Meal boxes on the ground outside in the evening.

Source: Meghan Hessler/Unsplash

However, Erlinger claimed that all franchisees are committed to trying to “minimize the impact of price increases.”

Focusing on Affordability

Erlinger also went on to say that McDonald’s is as focused as ever on ensuring their menu items are as affordable as they’ve always been.

A McDonald’s restaurant seen in the evening with its lights on.


Erlinger explained that the entire company, as well as its many franchisees, “must remain laser-focused on value and affordability.”


Have McDonald’s Menu Prices Risen?

Though Erlinger seems intent on pushing back against these allegations that all McDonald’s have risen their Big Mac combo meals to $18, data has shown that McDonald’s prices have skyrocketed in just the last decade.

A close-up of McDonald’s fries in a red carton.

Source: Brett Jordan/Unsplash

FinanceBuzz revealed this year that the average cost of a McDonald’s menu has doubled in 10 years.


Average McDonald’s Items Have Surged in Price

According to FinanceBuzz’s study, a Big Mac increased in price from $3.99 to $5.99. Meanwhile, a medium fry jumped in cost from $1.59 to $3.79 in only 10 years.

A close-up of a McDonald’s Big Mac box.

Source: Brett Jordan/Unsplash

Finally, a McDouble also rose in price from $1.19 in 2014 to $3.19 today.


Price Fatigue Hits Fast Food Eateries

Many fast-food restaurants have seemingly realized that consumers in the United States are struggling with price fatigue, as they no longer want to spend a lot of money when they head to fast-food locations.

A close-up of a modern and minimalist McDonald’s logo sign on a building.

Source: Janet Ganbold/Unsplash

McDonald’s has seen its customer traffic slow down in the first few months of 2024 because of this price fatigue.


Bringing Customers Back to McDonald’s

As a result of this slowdown in customer traffic, McDonald’s has made a concerted effort to try to bring more consumers back into its restaurants.

A close-up of a McDonald’s sign amid a blue sky.

Source: iStrfry , Marcus/Unsplash

To do so, they’ve brought back many customer-favorite food items, as well as limited-time deals. Most notably, reporting has revealed that McDonald’s is set to offer $5 meal deals to customers this summer.


New $5 Meals

These $5 meal options could include a McDouble, a McChicken, or a four-piece McNugget meal. All meals will come with fries and a drink.

A close-up of McDonald’s chicken nuggets.

Source: Brett Jordan/Unsplash

By offering this cheaper meal, McDonald’s is hoping to remain affordable for many of its customers, as well as bring back some consumers who may have decided to stop eating at the fast food giant because of high menu prices.


Convincing Customers To Come Back

However, McDonald’s may have to try harder to convince customers to return to its locations, as even their $5 meal deal has met with some backlash. Consumers have grown frustrated that this deal is only for a limited time and will only last for a short time frame.

A person pulling food out of a brown McDonald’s bag in their home.

Source: Annie Spratt/Unsplash

McDonald’s claims that they haven’t raised prices astronomically have also backfired for some. According to data, major fast food restaurants such as McDonald’s have increased their prices by 60% in 10 years. That’s almost double the rate of inflation.