Fast Food Inflation: Here's Where Burgers, Fries and Sandwiches Are Most Expensive
Find out if McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's or Chick-fil-A increased their prices more than the others.
David WatskySenior Editor / Home and Kitchen
David lives in Brooklyn where he's spent more than a decade covering all things edible, including meal kit services, food subscriptions, kitchen tools and cooking tips. Since earning a BA in English from Northeastern in Boston, he's toiled in nearly every aspect of the food business, including as a line cook in Rhode Island where he once made a steak sandwich for Lamar Odom. Right now, he's likely somewhere stress-testing a blender or researching the best way to make bacon. Anything with sesame is his all-time favorite food this week.
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Fast food isn't the best option when it comes to sticking to your healthy New Year's resolution, and now you have another excuse to visit the drive-through window less often. Fast-food menu prices jumped significantly in 2022 -- about 13%, according to Pricelisto, a website that tracks menu prices for US fast-food chains. That's even more than the cost of groceries, which bounced roughly 12% in 2022.
While one uberpopular fast-food chain did manage to lower prices in 2022, most companies raised the cost of burgers, chicken, fries and soda. One restaurant franchise led the charge with outsized inflation and assumes its position as the new most expensive US fast-food chain.
Wendy's and Chick-fil-A had the biggest menu inflation in 2022
Wendy's and Chick-fil-A saw the highest price hikes per meal last year, with Chick-fil-A ballooning 15.6% from 2021 to an average meal cost of $4.65. Prices at Wendy's, another fast-food fan favorite, shot up almost double that, with 35% inflation from the previous year.
Wendy's is now the new most expensive fast-food chain
With its big 2022 jump, Wendy's overtakes Burger King as the most expensive fast-food chain with the average meal costing $6.63. Taco Bell was another chain that passed inflation costs onto customers, hiking prices on its budget-friendly "Mexican fare" by 14.6% across the menu. It's worth noting that Pricelisto did not include the higher-end fast-food chains in the data such as Shake Shack.
But it wasn't all bad news for dollar menu hounds in 2022. Burger King increased menu prices by a mere 2%, according to Pricelisto, while McDonald's actually managed to decrease menu prices by 5% in 2022 compared to the previous year.
Some fast-food menu items shot up while others got cheaper
Inflation for individual menu items was a bit scattershot. Chicken, particularly breaded chicken, saw a serious shortage in 2021 which might explain why Burger King's chicken fries were the single most inflated menu item in the fast-food world. Chicken fries were followed by Chick-fil-A's grilled chicken sandwich, which shot up 10% in 2022.
On the flip side, Wendy's popular Baconator burger dropped in price by $2.51 -- a shocker when you consider the high cost of bacon in recent years (although it's since come back down). McDonald's iconic, and perhaps overrated, french fries also dropped by $0.09 over the course of the year.