Fast Food Shock! When Cheap Treats Become Not Affordable

With prices rising across the nation and the cost of living getting ever higher, you may be getting nostalgic for the “good old days” – back when the luxury treats of today were affordable. In that spirit, let’s take a look at how much your favorite fast food treats used to cost and see where inflation has hit the hardest.

The Changing Landscape of Fast Food Prices

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Fast food used to be a budget-friendly treat for the whole family, but nowadays, it’s become an expensive luxury for millions of Americans across the nation. Despite our nation being huge fans of fast food, prices have slowly been rising over the years – with a huge increase in recent times.

Investigating the Rise in Fast Food Prices

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Why exactly has this happened? And how much have prices changed? That’s exactly what FinanceBuzz sought to find out in their latest report that charts the price of fast food over the last decade – and their results were interesting, to say the least.

Significant Price Increases

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Their key findings from the study were that overall menu prices have risen between 39% and a massive 100% from 2014 to 2024. This increase is more than the rise in inflation during that time period, which was about 31%.

Leading the Pack with a 100% Price Increase

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McDonald’s stands out because its menu prices have McDoubled since 2014, which means they’ve increased by a huge 100%. This was the biggest price rise among the fast food chains that FinanceBuzz looked at.

Popeyes and Taco Bell

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Popeyes saw an 86% increase in prices, and Taco Bell came in third with an 81% increase.

Subway and Starbucks

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Subway and Starbucks have had the smallest price hikes. Their prices have gone up by just under 40% since 2014. They’re the only fast-food joints included in the study that have raised prices by under 50%.

Inflation vs. Fast Food Prices

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Despite inflation being up 31% since 2014, the majority of this rise has occurred in the last five years. Since 2019, inflation has risen by 22%. But have these increases in inflation been reflected in fast food prices? 

Comparing the Rates of Increase

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The short answer is – no. On average, these restaurants have outpaced inflation by almost double the rate, increasing prices by 60% in the last decade. Admittedly, most of these price increases occurred after 2019, but it still begs the question: Why such a huge increase?

Factors Driving Price Increases

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Well, according to FinanceBuzz experts, it’s partly due to the rate these places are having to pay their staff – which is outpacing inflation. 

Shift in Consumer Behavior

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On top of that, as people are feeling the financial pinch, more are opting for fast food instead of sit-down restaurants, which is increasing demand for fast food. 

Self-Service Kiosks and Tips

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Also, people working multiple jobs are sticking with fast food joints even if they cost more. On top of that, people are leaving smaller tips at these restaurants as they switch to self-service kiosks without a human presence, which is making restaurants raise their prices in response.

Drastic Price Surge Over the Past Decade

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McDonald’s has raised its prices so much in the last ten years that it has outpaced the national rate of inflation by over three times. The chief culprit on the menu was a McChicken sandwich, which cost $1 in 2014 and is now $3 in 2024 – an increase of almost 200% in ten years.  

Notable Increases in Menu Items

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Medium fries that used to be $1.59 are now $3.79, and a McDouble, which was $1.19 ten years ago, will set you back $3.19 nowadays.

Viral Price Points

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Mcdonald’s actually went viral earlier this year after the price of a Big Mac combo meal was posted online at an eye-watering $18.

Taco Bell’s Price Trends

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Prices at Taco Bell have shot up in the past decade. For example, the Doritos Locos Taco used to cost $1.39 in 2014, but now it costs $2.59 (+86%). The Cheesy Gordita Crunch doubled from $2.49 to $4.99.

Chipotle’s Price Hikes

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Chipotle’s prices have gone up by about 75% since 2014. A burrito or bowl that used to be under $6.75 is now $10.50 or more. Even guac costs more, up 64% from $1.80 to $2.95.

Starbucks Pricing

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Starbucks prices increased by 39% from 2014 to 2024, slightly higher than inflation. Some items, like the Chai Tea Latte and Mocha Frappuccino®, went up by 30% to 32%, while others rose less than inflation.

Burger King’s Approach 

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Burger King kept prices in check better than McDonald’s. While McDonald’s doubled their prices since 2014, Burger King’s menu items only went up by about 55%.

Affordable Fast Food

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Regardless of where you prefer to get your fast-food from, it seems as though these price hikes are here to stay.

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For transparency, this content was partly developed with AI assistance and carefully curated by an experienced editor to be informative and ensure accuracy.

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