McDonald's price increases over the years

Rob Cockerham says: "Because I have pictures of every fast food franchise's Drive Thru menu from 2002, I was able to take new drive-thru menu photos and compare the prices and layout of the new with the old."


      1.  Check out Cockerham’s site thoroughly. He’s a amazing. In addition to odd price-check pieces like this, and investigations of get-rich-quick schemes, he performs amazing pranks, often of a “retail” nature.

  1. Honestly, in most major cities McDonalds is more expensive than a much better meal from a deli.  I don’t understand why people eat there.  The food has become terrible over the years as well.

    1. Boy howdy, has it ever.  And I’m a trailer-park-bred lover of the drive-thru cheeseburger, but McD’s burgers have seemingly become salty and well-nigh inedible to me over the last few years.  I still think their fries are second-to-none, but the rest of their menu is pretty awful.

      1.  Something happened to my body. From the time I was single-digit years old to age 28, I could eat McDonalds anytime.  After my late 20s were over, I began to feel sluggish, kind of gassy, and a little ill for the rest of the day after I ate a full mcD burger of any kind.  At some point my body just said no more.  It was like a Golden Puberty.

          1. Heh, not me, I can pretty much handle anything as long as it isn’t avocados or beans. I was talking about this with some friends recently; one has the grease problem, but the other one is only affected by McD’s. He eats it and not only has stomach problems but gets headaches too. My hypothesis is that maybe it’s a certain preservative or just really high salt since the burgers are rather dry.

            [I hate Wendy’s, those things are so greasy they become slimy and that’s p much what my dad wants to eat for every meal. Also I got served a severely under-cooked one once too]

          2. For me it’s not really the grease, though it may be the salt.  McD’s fries don’t hurt me a bit, and I love a Wendy’s Double, but a McDonald’s double cheeseburger (the 99 cent one that’s significantly smaller than a Wendy’s double) just about knocks me on my ass.

    2.  “Become”? The last time I ate there was in the mid 1980s and it was awful then. I can’t believe that it got good and then went to crap again.

    3. Clearly, then, I am spending my time in the wrong major cities, or at least walking into the wrong delis. Regardless of that, my experience is that chains (of both the fast food and sit down variety) offer an efficiency, consistency, and quality control that is hard to match by going to independent shops. Maybe it isn’t as tasty or as much fun, but if you just want cheap food and some guarantee of the quality, fast food chains do have something to offer. Or that’s been my experience traveling for business. Granted, that is a different situation, since I have money to do better but lack the local knowledge. When I come in late to a city and have a choice between dicking around with yelp on my phone and driving around for half an hour in an unfamiliar neighborhood vs stopping at the known, well-lit franchise with copious parking, sometimes I choose the latter.

      1. When I come in late to a city and have a choice between dicking around with yelp on my phone and driving around for half an hour in an unfamiliar neighborhood vs stopping at the known, well-lit franchise with copious parking, sometimes I choose the latter.

        I just yell, “Who do you have to fuck to get a good liverwurst sandwich in this burg?”

      2. “Clearly, then, I am spending my time in the wrong major cities, or at least walking into the wrong delis.”

        Seems so!

        In the UK at least it does vary depending on where you are. But in Brighton I can get get a high-quality Indian Buffet in a charming sit-down restaurant for the same price as a McDonalds meal.

        I can also get a sandwich/crisps/drink type deal at a ton of locations for half the price of a McDonalds meal; it’s not warm, but it’s at least actual food.

        Subway is the one that always gets me on price though, I can’t believe what they consider good value for a sandwich and a drink; what is it, like £6.50 for a 6″ and a coke? Actual madness.

        1. Subway-esq sandwich places drive me nuts, they do far less work than other food people, and it’s so overpriced I could get the supplies from a grocery store for the price of one and have enough to last a week.

          1. It’s barely even more convenient either.

            At least if you’re building your own sandwich on a park bench you have an opportunity to be hilarious like Mr Bean.

          2. And the bread and veg will taste like bread and veg. I’ve always marveled at the way Subway has managed to make fresh bread test like foam, and find the worst possible tomatoes on Earth…

        2. “In the UK at least it does vary depending on where you are. But in Brighton I can get get a high-quality Indian Buffet in a charming sit-down restaurant for the same price as a McDonalds meal.”

          Prediction: you’re going to the Bombay Aloo.

          Brighton hometown shoutout.

        3. Not sure what makes the difference in the UK, but here in Australia Subway is damn competitive. Although I agree that the bread itself doesn’t always taste that wonderful, their wraps are good, and as a way of getting a big dose of veggies I like it. 

      3. Nobody’s going to fault somebody for going to Subway (or wherever) in an unfamiliar town (or highway exit) if it’s a matter of convenience, that’s entirely different than not exploring other comparable options in your own city. Of course I will say that with smart phones and internet/apps etc. it’s increasingly becoming inexcusable to not be somewhat curious and engaged with the world. I would never blame anybody who can’t afford access to those things though, but I don’t think many BoingBoingers fall in that category. Maybe traveling is a rare enough (non work related) event that it’s exciting for me, but I can’t imagine going to a town and not asking about (or researching) places to visit and eat, especially if they’re convenient to where I’m staying.

        Also, I’d say that guarantee of quality is overrated. It’s more like a guarantee of what can be passable for the cheapest price while making the necessary profits. You may run into a wretched ma and pa restaurant now and then, but you’ll likely find as many that are better than chains for the same (or less) price. On top of that there are the ethical reasons for avoiding large chains.

    4. As another biz traveler, I second what @boingboing-e16a4ca71de93b9d1e35186e568d9fdf:disqus  said. My experience is that in major European city centres, chains are invariably cheaper than local options and often look a safer choice (both from a cultural and hygienic point of view). Of course their food won’t taste as good as something from the fantastic hidden-gem local-artist-hideout five-miles-from-biz-district unmarked-entrance one-room vegan-only place, but I have enough headaches as it is. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a correlation between the rise of work-related mobility and fast-food success.

        1. McD, BK, Nando’s, Pizza Express, with different frequency. Nothing particularly healthy, but I try to avoid the worst when I can. I usually balance a quick-fix dinner and one at “proper” restaurants, which are much more prone to disappointment than chains (although, of course, a good restaurant is a fantastic find).

      1. Dude you’re not living if you don’t get dysentery every now and then; sometimes it comes from the best meal on the trip!

        Joking aside, ignoring some of the far corners of Europe you shouldn’t really have to worry much about such things. Consistency I get though, if you want to guarantee what you’re gonna get, even if it’s not what you want, McD’s generally does the job. Depressing but true.

        1. Dude you’re not living if you don’t get dysentery every now and then; sometimes it comes from the best meal on the trip!

          Or from drinking the tap water in Paris.

    5. This is true, and if you’re determined to eat greasy burgers and fries there are any number of locally owned and operated places that are as good/better and comparably priced. At least you’re keeping the money in the community.

      It’s really annoying actually. There’s been all kinds of articles popping up in recent years that try to paint legitimate criticism of chain restaurants as nothing but food snobbery. In some cases sure, but in most cases they aren’t a good choice ethically or budget wise.

  2. Interesting how those that sell Supersize Me crap (McDonald’s) have a huge price increase, while those that sell a more scrupulous, higher quality product (In n Out) have a more modest price increase.

  3. “Because I have pictures of every fast food franchise’s Drive Thru menu from 2002,”

    See that’s where the problem is.

  4. Yet their “food” is still crap that tastes like polyvinylchloride. Or at least I assume it is.

  5. I’m willing to bet that the Happy Meal kids food has not increased at all. If so, then that is their cynical plan to hook us.

  6. His comparison against CPI-U is not useful – CPI is an average value across a large range of products. If you look into CPI and how it is used, you will quickly realize that it is designed to minimize reported inflation and the associated inflation-adjusted government outlays. It’s also well known among economists that food prices have been increasing much more quickly than the CPI over the last few years:

    “As a general rule, the all-item and all-food CPIs tend to move together. Following a relatively tumultuous period of price inflation in the late 1980s, both price indexes entered an extended period of relative stability. From 1991 through 2006, the all-food CPI measured average annual inflation of 2.5%, compared with 2.7% annual average all-items price inflation (Figure 7). However, several economic factors emerged in late 2005 that began to gradually push market prices higher for both raw agricultural commodities and energy costs.11 These factors included the rapid development of the U.S. biofuels sector, as well as rising consumer incomes, not just in the United States but globally, which sparked demand for meat and dairy products, food and feed grains, and raw materials ranging from minerals and metals to coal and petroleum. In 2007, U.S. food price inflation reached 4% (Figure 8), the highest since 1990.

    In early 2008, monthly food price inflation began to accelerate (Figure 9). In July 2008, the month-to-month food price change was 0.96% (equivalent to an annual rate of 12.1% if sustained for the entire year). Monthly retail food price inflation responds with a lag of several months to price changes in raw commodity markets. For the entire year, 2008 food prices rose by 5.5%, well above the all-items CPI of 3.8% (Figure 7).”


    1.  And yet the screaming idiots who post elsewhere will blame all of this on the current President of the United States, his efforts at economic stimulus, and those of the Federal Reserve.  Never mind that this has been going on for nearly a decade before Barack Obama became President.

      Last year’s drought didn’t help, either.

    2.  Even given that all of your info on CPI is true, I don’t see how that would indicate that it is “not helpful” to compare the change in McDonald’s prices to CPI.  It absolutely helps to give sense of the scale of the increase.

      Perhaps you meant to say “misleading because it’s comparing increasing food prices to changes in prices of things that are not food”.  Even then I don’t really see a problem with it, though.

  7. This reminds me of something a friend of mine used to do. He would go to the drive-thru at fast food restaurants and, with their permission, take pictures of the people who worked the window.

    He thought about publishing them as a book to be titled “Drive-thru Shootings”.

  8. How many hours would I have to work in 2013 earning an average wage or salary (mean, median and mode) to buy one Big Mac compared to 2002?

  9. I actually commented recently that I find it remarkable how LITTLE they’ve gone up in price.

    Since I was a boy a Burger King has gone up maybe 20%, at the most. A block of butter or a loaf of bread from my local supermarket has gone up that much in the last 6 months.

  10. One thing I noticed:  the old menu board was easy to read and it actually made me hungry, with all the food pics.  The new one is mostly white, completely blah and the menu is much more difficult to read with lots of tiny print.  

    Also, nothing makes me shit quicker than a McDonald’s meal.

  11. I have a theory on this. McDonalds and Wal*Mart (coincidentally, McDonalds are often found inside of Wal*Marts) built a reputation as being far cheaper than the competition, to the point that many people were raised knowing this was “fact.” And for a time, this was true. But what I’ve noticed, time and time again, the items at both stores are becoming much more expensive than the competition. Black running shoes, Target $29.99 / Wal*Mart $35.99. In terms of quality, the Target ones are much better. I pulled the soles out of the Wal*Mart shoes. They were held in with two dabs of glue and that is it. Combo with burger with two patties, fries drink and Soda at McDonald’s $6.50 / Jack in the Box $3.99.
    How do they get away with this?
    I think it is that people who have hit hard times are convinced that they have to shop at these “cheaper” establishments, and simply assume that because Wal*Mart and McDonald’s prices have gone up, that the competition’s prices must be astronomically high, and are now afraid to leave their “safe-zone.”

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