Skip to content

McDonald's Sets the Record Straight On 'Viral Reports' About Its Prices

How much have McDonald's prices actually increased?

If you're even somewhat tuned into fast food, you've probably noticed that people have a lot to say about the current value at McDonald's. The burger giant has been hit with criticism and media attention over its dwindling affordability as customers sound off against prices for Hash Browns, Egg McMuffins, meal bundles, and Big Mac combos. But the chain wants to set the record straight, clarifying exactly how much its prices have increased.

Joe Erlinger, President of McDonald's USA, published an open letter on May 29 to separate "myths" from "facts" regarding the chain's prices.

 What a McDonald's Big Mac Cost the Year You Were Born

"Recently, we have seen viral social posts and poorly sourced reports that McDonald's has raised prices significantly beyond inflationary rates. This is inaccurate," he wrote. "And for a brand that proudly serves nearly 90% of the U.S. population every year, we feel a responsibility to make sure the real facts are available."

For example, Erlinger pointed to a Connecticut rest stop's $18 Big Mac meal that went viral last summer and sparked a wave of customer backlash.

"I can tell you that it frustrates and worries me, and many of our franchisees, when I hear about an $18 Big Mac meal being sold—even if it was at one location in the U.S. out of more than 13,700. More worrying, though, is when people believe that this is the rule and not the exception, or when folks start to suggest that the prices of a Big Mac have risen 100% since 2019."

McDonald's Big Mac
Patcharaporn Puttipon4289 / Shutterstock

According to Erlinger, a Big Mac cost $4.39 on average in the United States in 2019, versus $5.29 now.

"That's an increase of 21% (not 100%)," he wrote.

The open letter also broke down how much average prices have increased since 2019 for other popular McDonald's items, including the 10-piece Chicken McNuggets meal (28%), Egg McMuffin (23%), Quarter Pounder with Cheese (20%), Big Mac meals, (27%), and medium orders of fries (44%).

Erlinger said that McDonald's franchisees—who set their own prices and operate 95% of American stores—have had to charge more to offset their own rising costs amid inflation. Still, "prices for many of our menu items have risen less than the rate of inflation – and remain well within the range of other quick service restaurants," he said.

 Is McDonald's Getting Rid of Free Drink Refills? Here's What We Know

McDonald's has been working to ramp up its value offerings after lower-income customers cut back on visits to the chain in recent quarters. Erlinger said that more than 90% of its franchisees in the United States are currently offering meal bundles for $4 or less. The chain is reportedly also gearing up to launch a limited-edition $5 value meal in June.

Erlinger hopes these deals will resonate with guests seeking more value.

"I fully expect the prices at your local McDonald's to be an area of conversation and focus in the coming months," he said.  "As it does, I hope you'll see the programs we're launching nationally and locally as meaningful to you. At the same time, I hope it's helpful to see some of the common myths that I've encountered, and the facts that go along with them."

Zoe Strozewski
Zoe Strozewski is a News Writer for Eat This, Not That! A Chicago native who now lives in New Jersey, she graduated from Kean University in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Read more about Zoe
Filed Under