Is Fast Food Affordable Anymore? Here’s How Menu Prices Have Changed Over the Years [2024]

FinanceBuzz compared the current prices of popular fast-food menu items to what they cost a decade ago to find the chains where inflation has had the biggest and smallest impact.

a picture of a hamburger
Updated May 21, 2024
Fact checked

We receive compensation from the products and services mentioned in this story, but the opinions are the author's own. Compensation may impact where offers appear. We have not included all available products or offers. Learn more about how we make money and our editorial policies.

It’s no secret that things just keep getting more expensive. From home prices to personal goods, the cost of living in the U.S. has increased 22% since 2019, leaving consumers searching for ways to combat rising costs..

As Americans scramble to find better ways to budget, one historically-wallet-friendly option, fast food, is becoming less and less of a cost-saver. In fact, fast food price hikes have outpaced the national inflation rate in some instances, prompting backlash online and on social media.

Have fast food prices really changed so dramatically? And if so, by how much? At FinanceBuzz, we’re always looking for ways to save money, so we wanted to better understand how much a trip to the drive thru was really costing consumers. To find out, we collected pricing data from a dozen popular fast food restaurants over the last decade, and calculated how much prices have risen compared to the national inflation rate. 

Key findings

  • From 2014 to 2024, average menu prices have risen between 39% and 100% — all increases that outpace inflation during the given time period (31%).
  • McDonald’s menu prices have doubled (100% increase) since 2014 across popular items — the highest of any chain we analyzed.
  • Popeyes follows McDonald’s with an 86% increase, and Taco Bell is third at +81%.
  • Menu prices at Subway and Starbucks have risen by “just” 39% since 2014 — the lowest among chains we studied. These are also the only restaurants where prices have risen by less than 50%.

How does fast food inflation compare to actual inflation?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the cost of goods in the U.S. has risen 31% since 2014, meaning $100 in 2014 dollars is worth $131 in 2024 dollars. Much of this change has happened in the last 5 years — inflation is up 22% since 2019.

So how do the average menu price increases at popular fast food chains compare to those rates? 

A line chart showing how various fast-food chains' prices have increased from 2014 to 2024 compared to inflation. The highest increases are from McDonald's and the lowest are from Subway and Starbucks.

The restaurants we evaluated raised prices by 60% on average between 2014 and 2024. That means they’ve raised prices at a rate nearly double the national rate of inflation.

Five different restaurants — McDonald’s, Popeyes, Taco Bell, Chipotle, and Jimmy John’s — raised their prices at more than double the national inflation rate. McDonald’s raised prices so much that their average menu prices increased more than three times the national rate of inflation.

Beyond the golden arches, the data reveals more than a 75% price increase at Popeyes, Taco Bell, and Chipotle over the last 10 years. Subway and Starbucks, on the other hand, kept prices the most stable of any major chain, but still outpaced national inflation. Some notable examples include: 

McDoubled: McDonald's prices have risen the most

The worst offender for dramatic price increases is McDonald’s — a chain that recently went viral for all the wrong reasons. An $18 Big Mac® combo garnered so much attention online that the McDonald’s CEO promised affordability on a recent earnings call. According to our data, prices at McDonald’s have doubled since 2014, with an average price increase of 100%.

A chart showing how McDonald's prices for popular menu items have more than doubled in the last 10 years.

Overall, this rate is more than triple the national inflation rate during the same time. One illustrative example is the McChicken® sandwich: once a staple of the chain’s $1 menu in 2014, the sandwich now costs $3 at some locations, a 200% increase.

Other former value menu items, like the McDouble® and a simple order of medium fries were among the most egregious price increases across the McD’s menu.

What Rising Fast Food Prices Mean for Consumers

Though incremental changes in fast food prices may not seem like the highest dollar-value changes to consumers’ wallets, they are an illustrative example of a new financial reality in the U.S. — your dollar doesn’t go as far as it used toand American families need to figure out how to make it work.

Another place many Americans have been feeling the squeeze is with auto insurance. As premiums have risen more than 20% in the last year, many are scrambling to find cheaper car insurance options. And like with fast food, the premium hikes tend to hurt lower income earners the most.

Some are turning to credit cards to make up the gap. After a few years of declining balances, credit card debt has climbed back to an all-time high. Cards that have balance transfer incentives and 0% intro APR offers look especially enticing to anyone who is trying to close a gap on their monthly budget or looking for debt relief.

For others, there's no way to stretch more on their current income so they're turning to ways to make extra income on the weekends or find higher-paying jobs. With no easy solution and no relief in sight, inflation is likely to remain a top concern for Americans heading into this year's Presidential election. In fact,a recent FinanceBuzz survey found that inflation is the top financial issue among American voters right now.

Other notable fast-flation examples

Taco Bell

Average price increase: 81%

Notable price hikes: A Doritos® Locos Taco went from an average price of $1.39 in 2014 to $2.59 in 2024 (+86%), while a Cheesy Gordita Crunch has doubled in price from $2.49 in 2014 to $4.99 today. The Beefy 5-Layer Burrito, which went from an average cost of $1.59 in 2014 to a present-day price of $3.69. That’s a 132% increase.


Average price increase: 75%

Notable price hikes: In 2014, hungry customers could get an entree, such as a burrito, bowl, or tacos, for less than $6.75 on average. Those same meals all cost $10.50 or more today. And while guac has always cost extra, it costs 64% more now than it did 10 years ago ($1.80 to $2.95 on average).


Average price increase: 31%

Notable price hikes: Interesting, some beloved Starbucks menu items have kept pace with inflation, such as their Chai Tea Latte (+30%) and their Mocha Frappuccino® (+32%). Even better for Starbucks fans and their wallets, costs for certain items such as a Caffè Latte (+22%) and Caramel Macchiato (+17%) have actually risen slower than inflation, which makes them a better deal now than they were a decade ago.  

Full results and Methodology

For a full methodology and a chart featuring all the data we collected, please visit the full study

Easy ways to save on your next fast-food order

  • Maximize your rewards when dining out. Learn about the best credit cards to use when dining out. These cards can help you earn cash back or discounts when going out for a meal.
  • Download the mobile apps. Many fast food restaurants, including McDonald's, offer discounts and deals just for using their mobile app.
  • Watch for upcoming deals. McDonald's is reportedly considering offering a $5 meal deal to win back consumers who are unhappy with rising prices. Look for other fast food chains to follow suit.