Wendy's Is Now the Most Expensive Fast Food Restaurant in the U.S., New Data Says
Fast food is supposed to be affordable, but 2022 put that to the test in a big way. Just a few months ago U.S. inflation had reached an astounding 8.2%, before easing somewhat to 7.7% in October. Suffice to say, pretty much everything comes with a bigger price tag right now, and the fast food industry hasn't been immune.
Now, a new data analysis performed by Pricelisto comparing menu prices between September 2021 and October 2022 reveals overall prices have increased by 12.9% across five of the biggest names in fast food: McDonald's, Taco Bell, Burger King, Wendy's, and Chick-fil-A.
Wendy's earns the notorious title of the most expensive fast food chain this year, beating out last year's "winner" Burger King. Wendy's prices increased by an eyebrow-raising 35% this year, representing the largest increase in 2022 among analyzed chains (average price: $6.63).
Chick-fil-A had the second largest price increase over the past year, displaying an average price of $4.65 for their menu items, and an increase of 15.6% in comparison to 2021. Taco Bell took third place with an average price of $3.37, which is a 14.6% increase from just last year.
Burger King's prices, in comparison, didn't increase all that much in 2022. The average price of a product from Burger King in 2022 was $5.14, representing just a 2% increase over 2021.
McDonald's, meanwhile, somehow managed to actually lower their prices this year. The average price for a McDonald's menu item in 2022 was $3.77. That's a 5% drop in comparison to 2021.
"With the busy lives we lead, turning to fast food is the easiest option for many people. It is interesting to see how chains have responded to the rise in inflation and shipping costs for their ingredients," a Pricelisto spokesperson said. "The price of wages, transportation and energy all contribute to a higher end price for the consumer but larger chains such as McDonald's are able to mitigate this with brand deals and bulk buying."
Overall average prices may be useful for data analysis, but what about some actual menu items? Notably, Burger King's Chicken Fries saw the largest price increase (16%). This year Chicken Fries cost $4.64, but the same order was only $3.97 in 2021. The price of Chick-fil-A's Grilled Chicken Sandwich also jumped by 10% ($7.23 in 2022, $6.57 in 2021).
The Big Mac only increased by 17 cents ($5.47 in 2022, $5.30 in 2021), but the price of an Egg McMuffin did bump up 22 cents to $4.43 this year. Both the Whopper and Double Whopper at BK became more affordable this year. The Whopper was 27 cents cheaper this year in comparison to 2021, and the Double Whopper was 39 cents cheaper.
Wendy's may have experienced the largest overall price increase, but many singular menu items actually became cheaper. The Baconator cost $2.51 less this year ($9.62 in 2022, $12.13 in 2021), and the Spicy Chicken Sandwich also dropped in price by 12 cents.
Taco Bell also saw many individual menu items decrease in price. Soft Tacos were 49 cents cheaper in 2022 and the price of Crunchy Tacos dropped by 48 cents. Both the popular Crunchwrap Supreme ($4.42 in 2022, $5.64 in 2021) and the Nachos BellGrande ($4.69 in 2022, $6.04 in 2021) decreased in price by over a dollar as well.