Prices at These 12 Fast-Food Restaurants Have Risen the Most in 10 Years

NEWS & TRENDING - MONEY NEWS
Fast-food is more expensive than ever, especially at these 12 chains, where prices have soared in recent years.
Updated May 17, 2024
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couple eating fast food at restaurant

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Whether you prefer Wendy’s or Arby’s, Chick-Fil-A or McDonald’s, you expect your favorite fast-food chain to deliver tasty, affordable food whipped up as quickly as possible. While tastiness and speed are still staples of the fast-food industry, inflation has taken affordability off the menu — and some chains have turned up the heat on prices more than others.

Just as prices have increased at the grocery store for your family, the companies that operate these fast-food restaurants have been hit with higher prices, too.

Which fast-food chains have increased their prices the most over the last 10 years? FinanceBuzz studied the menus.

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Subway

monticellllo/Adobe subway fast food restaurant sign

Years ago, a 12-inch Philly cheesesteak at Subway cost less than $10. But over the last decade, Subway’s prices have gone up by 39%.

Most of that inflation — a full 30% — took place over the last five years, which checks out given COVID-19’s impact on the world economy.

As a result, the next time you’re craving your favorite Subway cheesesteak, you can expect to pay nearly $12 for the pleasure.

Starbucks

ManuPadilla/Adobe Starbucks coffee drink

It’s not your imagination: Starbucks’ prices have been going up (and up and up) by an average of 37% over the last decade.

The price for some products, like cake pops, have nearly doubled: In 2014, one cake pop cost a reasonable $1.50, but after a 97% price increase over time, the cost for just one pop is now just below $3.

Prices for other products have gone up slightly less. For example, a Venti Caramel Macchiato now costs $5.45 compared to its earlier price of $4.65.

Panera Bread

Tada Images/Adobe panera bread sign

At Panera Bread, prices have gone up a shocking 54% in the last 10 years. As with most other chains, most of that inflation — a full 43% — happened since 2019.

While all Panera products have increased in price over time, the sandwiches and bread bowls took the brunt of the hit. For instance, the cost of the Frontega Chicken sandwich and Bacon Turkey Bravo sandwich went up by 63%. While your favorite sandwich cost $7.49 in 2014, you’ll now pay $12.19.

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Burger King

vulcanus/Adobe drive in of fast food store Burger King

Burger King’s prices increased at an average rate of 55% since 2014. You’ve probably seen the biggest difference if your most-ordered menu item is the Whopper meal. Ten years ago, you would’ve paid just $5.79 for your favorite meal. Now, you’ll get the same burger-and-fry combo for an average of $9.99.

Chick-Fil-A

Endeavor Moore Media/Adobe chick-fil-a in marana arizona

In the last decade, Chick-Fil-A’s prices went up at the same 55% rate as Burger King’s prices. The Southwest salad, for instance, once cost just over $5. Today, it costs a full $4 more for a total of $9.69. If you prefer desserts to salads, your wallet is in for better news: Cookie prices at Chick-Fil-A have gone up just $0.50.

Arby’s

billtster/Adobe outside front of Arby's building

The average Arby’s meal costs 55% more now than it did in 2014, but nearly 50% of that increase happened between 2019 and 2023. While prices rose for just about everything during the pandemic, prices at food chains like Arby’s actually increased at a faster rate — in Arby’s case, at 1.2% the national inflation rate.

This increase explains why you now pay $3.59 for a Jamocha shake when you used to pay just $2.39.

Wendy’s

jetcityimage/Adobe Wendy's fast food restaurant

Remember the good old days when a small Frosty cost just $0.99? Since 2014, Wendy’s prices have gone up an average of 55%, but the Frosty heated up more than other items.

With an 111% increase over the last decade, a small Frosty now costs an average of $2.09.

Jimmy John’s

jetcityimage/Adobe jimmy john's gourmet sandwich

Craving a sandwich? Depending on what you’re ordering, Panera Bread and Subway are both cheaper choices than Jimmy John’s. The sandwich chain’s prices have increased an average of 62% in 10 years — though luckily for sandwich fans, Jimmy John’s drink and cookie prices have actually gone up more.

Chipotle

Felix Mizioznikov/Adobe Chipotle Mexican Grill Pineapple Commons Stuart

Chipotle’s prices have gone up at an astonishing rate of 75% in 10 years. Those chicken tacos you used to pay $6.25 for? Now you’ll need to budget $10.70 for the same meal. Prefer barbacoa to poultry? Your beef tacos, once $6.65, are now $12.45.

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Taco Bell

jetcityimage/Adobe Taco Bell storefront

Taco Bell’s prices were pretty low to begin with, so your wallet might not notice the chain’s average price increase of 81% as much as, say, Chipotle’s 75% increase. For example, a soft taco once cost $1.09. Now, it costs closer to $1.79.

And even though the Chalupa Supreme costs 110% more now than it did in 2014, the final cost is still less than $5, which might make Taco Bell the best deal on our fast-food list in spite of price spikes.

Popeye’s

Iryna/Adobe popeyes chicken fast food

If you can’t get enough of Popeye’s Cajun-inspired fast-food, your wallet may not have enough. With an average price increase of 86% since 2014, Popeye’s menu items now take a much bigger chunk of change. A large order of Cajun fries, for example, cost just $3.99 a decade earlier. That same serving size costs nearly $8 today.

McDonald’s

wolterke/Adobe McDonald's exterior golden arches sign

It probably doesn’t shock you that the world’s biggest fast-food chain also experienced the biggest 10-year price increase. The average McDonald’s menu item costs 100% more now than it did 10 years ago. Specifically, a Quarter Pounder with Cheese meal that once cost $5.39 is now, almost unbelievably, $11.99.

Bottom line

BlueSkyImages/Adobe restaurant worker serving two fast food meals with smile

Fast-food used to be an affordable meal option for American families. But with the industry’s above-average rate of inflation, fast-food is losing its appeal.

Give your budget a boost by skipping fast-food in favor of a home-cooked meal — or at least consider making Burger King or Wendy’s your first pick over McDonald’s.

And if you’re really a savvy shopper, consider downloading the chain’s app to get special deals or use gift cards that you can buy at a discount at Costco.

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Author Details

Michelle Smith Michelle Smith has spent a decade writing for and about small businesses. She specializes in all things finance and has written for publications like G2 and SmallBizDaily. When she's not writing for work at her desk, you can usually find her writing for pleasure near large bodies of water.

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