If you’ve found yourself eating from your local fast-food joints more often during the pandemic, you’re in the company of millions of other Americans. Fast food was one of the most reliable options for takeout and delivery in 2020, as dine-in restaurants were forced to operate in a limited capacity and, sometimes, shut down altogether.
Another reason we’ve been flocking to the fast-food chains is their reasonable pricing, which often provide the best value meals for cash-strapped families during an economic downturn. But if this has been your main reason for ordering fast food, you may want to rethink your budgeting strategy. According to new government data, fast-food prices have undergone the highest rate of inflation since 2008, and are now much higher than they were a year ago.
Data shows that prices at limited-service restaurants skyrocketed by 6.2% year-over-year compared to full-service restaurants (those with wait-staff and dining rooms), which increased by 2.9%. (Related: McDonald’s Is Making These 8 Major Upgrades.)
According to Restaurant Business, the price surge can be attributed to higher demand. Fast food drive-thru and delivery options, in particular, saw a surge at chains like Chick-fil-A, McDonald’s, and Domino’s. Incremental price increases, then, were less likely to threaten the livelihood of those businesses versus full-service businesses, which struggled with a major decrease in customers.
Another factor affecting the pricing of fast food is an increase in wages at fast-food restaurants. To retain untipped workers and match higher wages at companies like Walmart, Target, and Costco, chains were forced to raise menu prices.
Delivery via third-party apps will also tack on additional charges to a fast-food order. If you get your Chipotle order on DoorDash, for example, you’ll pay 13% more than at a Chipotle location. At Noodles&Co., the difference is 15%.
According to Restaurant Business’s Jonathan Maze, these factors end up making fast-food delivery as expensive as an order from some full-service restaurants.
For more on fast-food trends, check out 6 Most Anticipated Fast-Food Menu Items Launching This Year, and don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter to get the latest restaurant news delivered straight to your inbox.