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McDonald's Hits Back Against Claims About an Outrageous Rise in the Price of its Big Mac Meal

McDonald’s stated that the average price of a U.S. Big Mac was $4.39 in 2019 and now costs $5.29, marking only a 20.5% increase.
PUBLISHED MAY 31, 2024
Cover Image Source: A sign stands outside of a McDonald's restaurant | Getty Images | Photo by Justin Sullivan
Cover Image Source: A sign stands outside of a McDonald's restaurant | Getty Images | Photo by Justin Sullivan

At a time when people are struggling with grocery bills and rent among other expenses, even a slight increase in the prices at popular fastfood chains is enough to trigger outrage on social media platforms. After several reports about a surge in prices, burger giant McDonald’s is fighting back against claims that it has described as exaggerated. In a letter posted on the company’s website, McDonald’s U.S. President Joe Erlinger claimed that reports suggesting the price of the average Big Mac has doubled since 2019 were false.



Claiming that the viral post about a Big Mac Meal being $18 was an exception, McDonald’s stated that the average price of a U.S. Big Mac was $4.39 in 2019 and now costs $5.29, marking only a 20.5% increase. At the same time, fast food price hikes are not just limited to McDonald's.



Most publications have cited data from a FinanceBuzz report that tracked fast food prices between 2014 and 2024. In its report, the personal finance site found that McDonald's doubled the price of its Quarter Pounder with Cheese from $5.39 in 2014 to $11.99 this year. The report further suggested that other restaurant chains also jacked up their prices. Popeye's, Jimmy John's, and Subway hiked their food prices by 86%, 62%, and 39% respectively between 2014 and 2024, per FinanceBuzz.



The data for the report was derived by selecting 10 menu items from each fast-food chain, using third-party websites to check the menu prices in 2014, 2019, and 2024. A post on X (formerly Twitter) went viral in 2023 showing how the prices of McDonald’s combo meals at a Darien, Connecticut rest stop, which included a Big Mac combo meal, had reached a staggering $17.59.



In the official release, Erlinger acknowledged that he and many franchisee owners were frustrated by the post on a Big Mac meal in Connecticut, calling the price “an exception.” He stated that that franchisees own and operate 95% of U.S. McDonald’s locations and they set their pricing. However, the company is working “hard to minimize the impact of price increases,” Erlinger noted.

The release called out the reports of McDonald's raising Big Mac Meal prices by over 104% as false by stating that the average U.S. price of a Big Mac meal, which includes a sandwich, fries, and a drink, was $7.29 in 2019 and it is currently is $9.29, marking only a 21% increase. However, the release did suggest that some items have seen bigger price jumps than the Big Mac. For instance, the price of medium fries was $2.29 in 2019 and it’s now $3.29, marking a 44% increase. “For a brand that proudly serves nearly 90% of the U.S. population every year, we feel a responsibility to make sure the real facts are available,” Erlinger said in the release.

Fast-food executives have pointed to rising wages and increased costs for ingredients as the factors driving up the prices. Fast food chains have indeed passed on the pressure of rising operational costs to customers, especially in states such as California where the minimum wage was hiked to $20 an hour to eliminate the tip credit system.



Furthermore, the industry has witnessed a decline in sales and demand. While McDonald’s marked a slowdown in store traffic in the first quarter, Yum Brands, which owns KFC, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut, also reported earnings that missed analysts’ estimates in the first quarter of 2024, per CNBC.

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