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McDonald's president responds to reports of $18 Big Mac meals

In a letter, McDonald's USA President Joe Erlinger said, "We feel a responsibility to make sure the real facts are available."
McDonald's Prices
Posted at 7:11 AM, May 30, 2024

You probably have heard the story by now: Someone paid $18 for a Big Mac combo meal at a McDonald's amid high inflation.

The company's president of U.S. operations, however, is pushing back, stating that the case of the $18 combo meal was an "exception" and not indicative of the true cost of a meal at the fast food chain.

In a letter to customers on Wednesday, McDonald's USA president Joe Erlinger said the company and its franchisees "must remain laser-focused on value and affordability."

"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."

Fast food is served at a drive-thru.

Economy

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Chloe Nordquist
1:58 PM, May 02, 2024

Although an $18 Big Mac may be an outlier, there is evidence prices at McDonald's have increased at a higher rate than its competitors. According to a 2024 analysis from FinanceBuzz, the average cost of menu staples at McDonald's has doubled in the last decade.

FinanceBuzz noted that the average price of a Big Mac went up from $3.99 to $5.99, a McDouble increased from $1.19 in 2014 to $3.19 and a medium fry has gone up from $1.59 to $3.79 in the last decade.

Overall, leading fast food restaurants increased prices by about 60% between 2014 and 2024, the data showed. That is nearly double the rate of inflation.

Earlier this year, McDonald's said that it planned to reemphasize affordability in an effort to bring back low-income customers.

"Providing our customers with affordable options has always been core to our brand, and it's even more important as consumers feel pressure on their spending, particularly the lower-income consumer," Ian Borden, McDonald's chief financial officer, said earlier this year. "We continue to listen to our customers by evolving our value offerings, maintaining strong perceptions in value for money and affordability."

This month, reports said McDonald's would launch a $5 meal deal this summer, which could include a McChicken, McDouble, or four-piece McNuggets, plus fries and a drink. Other fast food chains have also announced similar deals to try to bring back inflation-weary customers.

"Inflationary pressures have affected all sectors of the economy, including ours. Our franchisees (who own and operate more than 95% of all restaurants in the U.S.) set menu prices for their restaurants, which account for the increased costs of running their businesses," Erlinger said. "In doing so, they work hard to minimize the impact of price increases on our fans. This includes the everyday prices on our restaurant menu boards to special limited-time offers."