You’re not going crazy if you think your go-to coffee dollar menu order seems more expensive than it used to be, as a new study suggests that America’s biggest fast-food chains are indeed hiking prices.
According to a report from food research group Datassential, the median price of a fast-food hamburger in the U.S. has leapt 54 percent through the last decade to about $6.95. Similarly, the median price of a chicken sandwich was reported to be up 27 percent, as per Bloomberg, with both sums surpassing inflation during that period.
Why? Chains like Chick-fil-A, McDonald’s and Burger King are simply trying to keep up with their fast-casual competitors like Shake Shack and Applebee’s, Today reports, which are successfully charging customers more for what’s billed to be a higher-quality product.
"Consumer dining behaviors and habits are lending themselves to increased costs and rising prices," global restaurant consultant Aaron Allen told the outlet. "You used to go to fast-food places with $5 and expect to get change.
"But when fast casual came around, like Chipotle and Five Guys, you expected to hand over $10. This changed how much fast food [restaurants] could charge for a burger,” he said.
According to the findings, for example, a hamburger from a fast casual eatery like Shake Shack used to cost nearly 30 percent more than the same dish from a more mainstream fast-food chain. But today, the difference has crept up to less than eight percent, Bloomberg reports, also due in part to competition between the major fast-food chains themselves.
“There’s more price competition at the fast-food chains versus what you’d expect to see at a full-service restaurant,” Omair Sharif, senior U.S. economist at Societe Generale, told the outlet.
As health-conscious millennials, too, increasingly opt to splurge on fancier meals or cook at home, major fast-food chains are hustling to promote too-good-to-be-true, budget-savvy deals, like McDonald’s $1 sandwiches or Burger King’s 10-piece nuggets for a dollar, Today reports — though how effective they are for the companies' bottom lines remains to be determined.
“It’s a market-share fight,” McDonald’s Chief Executive Officer Steve Easterbrook said in October, as per Bloomberg. “I don’t see many people, many out there in our sector, who are actually growing traffic at all."