7 Worst Value Meals at Beloved Chain Restaurants That Aren’t Really a Deal

Has fast food become a luxury?

big tasty burger and fries
Updated July 18, 2024
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If you’re looking to save money at restaurants, you want to make sure you’re getting a good bang for your buck. It’s not just about how much these meals cost, but you want to enjoy the food you’re eating too. 

Here are the worst value meals that you should avoid — and what to get instead.

Editor’s note: Prices are subject to change and may vary by location.

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Burger King 8 Pc. Chicken Nuggets Meal

Courtesy of Burger King 8 pc chicken nuggets meal

Price: $7.88

Burger King is known for its flame-grilled burgers. It's expanded its menu offerings over the years, but customers warn to steer clear of the chicken nuggets. One Reddit user said the nuggets are “best described as fried sawdust.”

What to get instead:

Wendy’s 10-piece chicken nugget combo for $9.69

Wendy’s chicken nuggets were ranked the best fast food nuggets by Allrecipes.com. Even though they cost a bit more, you actually get more nuggets at Wendy’s, and as another Reddit user agreed, “I’d rather pay more for better quality 100%.” 

And best of all, Wendy’s Rewards members can snag six nuggets for free every Wednesday.

Five Guys cheeseburger with fries & a drink

Courtesy of Five Guys/Facebook cheeseburger with fries and drink

Price: $17.17

Five Guys sells everything on their menu a la carte. This means you have to make your own combo. For a regular cheeseburger, little fries, and a regular drink, you’ll spend close to 20 bucks (maybe more depending on location). 

Five Guys has been under fire lately for its pricing. There are theories that their pricing is related to higher-quality, never-frozen ingredients, but customers are still unhappy with the recent sticker shock.

What to get instead:

In-n-Out cheeseburger combo meal for $6.99

In-n-Out has attained something of a cult status on the West Coast and with good reason. Every burger is made to order, and their cheeseburger is legendary. 

While this version might be a slightly smaller portion than Five Guys, you are still getting the same fresh, never-frozen quality with a much smaller price tag.

Carl’s Jr hand-breaded chicken sandwich combo with waffle fries

Courtesy of Carl's Jr. chicken sandwich combo with fries

Price: $11.29

Carl’s Jr’s basic chicken sandwich is just that — basic. Most fast-food restaurants have some version of this meal on the menu. 

Even after reformulating the recipe back in 2021, this chicken meal is not great. The consensus among reviews is that this meal isn’t worth the taste for the price.

What to get instead:

Popeye’s classic chicken sandwich combo for $8.79

Popeye's classic chicken sandwich took the country by storm when it was added to the menu back in 2019. Demand was so high that lines around the building weren’t an uncommon sight, and stores frequently ran out. 

Even years later, it holds the number one spot as the favorite chicken sandwich.

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Wendy’s grilled chicken wrap combo

Courtesy of Wendy's grilled chicken wrap combo

Price: $10.59

This wrap may look like a good option for those who want the flavor of a salad but the convenience of a burger. However, the reviews are in, and they aren’t pretty. Complaints include dry tortillas, minimal cheese, and rubbery or dry chicken.

What to get instead:

Chick-fil-A cool wrap meal for $12.49

While this version is slightly more expensive, reviewers agree that it tastes much better. The flaxseed wrap and the 43g of protein make this option more filling. 

With Chick-fil-A expanding its footprint to more regions, this tasty wrap will be available to more folks very soon.

Del Taco 2 The Del Tacos Meal

Courtesy of Del Taco the del tacos meal

Price: $9.30

The battle of the fast food tacos is alive and well. Depending on which Reddit thread you read, you’ll see passionate arguments both for and against Del Taco. But when it comes to crunchy tacos, Del Taco just doesn’t offer the best value (or quality) for the price.

What to get instead:

Taco Bell 3 crunchy taco combo for $7.69

If you want tacos, this is the fast-food version you should get. While the combo at Del Taco includes a small fry and medium drink, at Taco Bell, you can get three tacos and a large drink and save yourself almost $2.

Panera bowl of mac & cheese

Courtesy of Panera bowl of mac and cheese

Price: $10.49

The mac and cheese from Panera has been such a popular menu item that they even made refrigerated versions you can buy from your local grocer to heat up at home. 

Unfortunately, the fast-casual chain has apparently changed its recipe, and it’s just not the same. 

One Reddit response from a Panera employee said, “I work there, they started coming in different packages, and I had one the other day. Tasted like nothing, was so gross. They must have changed the recipe.”

What to get instead:

Chick-fil-A large mac & cheese for $8.15

Chick-fil-A’s mac and cheese is a relatively new menu item. Reviewers are happy with the combination of cheddar, parmesan and romano cheeses that makes this dish taste homemade. 

You can even order catering sizes and bring it to your next family get together.

Jack-in-the-Box 6pc Garlic Parmesan Crispy Chicken Wings Combo

Courtesy of Jack-in-the-Box garlic parmesan crispy chicken wings combo

Price: $12.68

The fast-food restaurant tested these in 2023 before adding them to the menu. However, customers aren’t happy with the flavor, especially compared to other popular wing restaurants. 

Comments from Reddit read, “I tried the garlic parmesan, not enough garlic and too much parmesan,” and,” The new wings weren’t that good. No garlic flavor. Just some sprinkled grated cheese like the Kraft stuff you get at Safeway.”

What to get instead:

Wingstop 6-piece classic combo for $14.39

While the Wingstop combo will cost you $1.71 more, customers rave about how much they love these garlic parmesan wings. The extra little bit of cash seems to equal a whole lot more satisfaction with your meal.

Bottom line

jason/Adobe fast food burger and fries

If you think fast food prices have gone up, you’re not imagining it. In the last year, fast food prices have risen almost 5%. 

If you’re looking to stretch your fast food budget, read the reviews before you go. Also, keep in mind that ordering a la carte and skipping the drink can often save a few dollars.

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Holly Humbert

Holly is a writer who recognizes that there isn't a one-size-fits-all approach to personal finance. She is passionate about entrepreneurship, women in business, and financial literacy. With more than four years of experience, her work has been featured on MarketWatch and The Ways to Wealth.