Statement from FinanceBuzz on Fast Food Inflation Study

Updated June 5, 2024
Fact checked

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Last week, Joe Erlinger, President of McDonald's USA, posted an open letter in response to recent criticism over rising prices at McDonald's. The letter, in part, disputes FinanceBuzz data from a report our research team published in March 2024 and mischaracterizes the data in that report.


The idea for the FinanceBuzz fast food inflation report was born from our team's own experiences as fast food customers. We, like other Americans, have felt the effects of price increases at the drive-thru in recent years and wanted to investigate just how much prices had risen.

Our report specifically compares 2014 vs. 2024 (10-year) prices on popular menu items at 12 of America's biggest fast food chains, and looks at those increases in relation to the national rate of inflation.

The report's findings clearly struck a chord with fast food fans across the country, reinforcing what families had been feeling and quantifying the dramatic price increases they'd noticed when dining out. More than 500 publications have written about this FinanceBuzz study in the two months since publication and fast food inflation has become a major topic on TV news programs. This mass coverage has put pressure on fast food restaurants to reconsider their pricing.

McDonald's response

The McDonald's letter titled "Providing meaningful value to our fans, with a side of facts" specifically mentions FinanceBuzz as mischaracterizing facts in three places (labeled by them as “myths.”)

In each of these examples, FinanceBuzz data is disputed by McDonald's with pricing information from a 5-year period (2019 to 2024). The FinanceBuzz report, and the statements in it, reflect 2014 to 2024 trends (10-year comparison), and are labeled as such. While we don’t dispute the accuracy of the data McDonald's presented, it's not an accurate representation of the FinanceBuzz data in question.

FinanceBuzz is specifically quoted in three places:

  1. “McDonald's raised prices at a rate nearly double the national rate of inflation.”

This isn't a direct quote from the FinanceBuzz report. Specifically, our report states that prices at all fast food restaurants, on average, rose at nearly double the national rate of inflation during the 10-year timeframe.

  1. “McDonald's raised prices so much that their average menu prices increased more than three times the national rate of inflation.”

This again isn't a direct quote from the FinanceBuzz report, but the report does say that McDonald's prices increased by more than triple the actual inflation rate during that time (referencing the time period of 2014-2024). The McDonald's letter cites price and inflation data from 2019-2024 as a rebuttal to this claim.

  1. “McDonald's Medium Fries increased by +138% since 2019.”

The FinanceBuzz report does reference a 138% increase, but it’s clearly labeled as a 2014 to 2024 comparison, not an increase since 2019.

The FinanceBuzz data, collected from third-party sources linked in the report, comes from actual locations across the chains analyzed. Specifically for McDonald's, it's noted in the methodology that individual menu pricing can be variable depending on franchise location, and our team tried to fairly represent this data (and disclose its limitations).

Fast food prices and the impact on customers

Since the FinanceBuzz fast food inflation report was released just two months ago, we've been happy to see chains are taking customer feedback seriously and creating ways to make things more affordable for consumers. To their credit, McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's, and other chains have since created value meals to reduce costs for customers and reaffirm their commitments to offer affordable options for families.

At FinanceBuzz, our sole mission is to provide our readers with the information they need to make smart choices with their money. This includes providing accurate, fair, and interesting data for our readers. This report was no exception.

The FinanceBuzz Research Team