A new survey shows Americans say fast food is now a luxury

A home-cooked meal is now the cheap, go-to choice for more than half the people surveyed.
A man ordering food at Burger King
Posted at 6:55 PM, May 31, 2024

Fast food has long been thought of as a quick and cheap meal, but the majority of Americans no longer see it that way. According to a new Lending Tree survey, 3 in 4 people say they still eat fast food at least once per week but less than previously due to rising prices.

Of the 2,000 Americans surveyed, 78% say they now view fast food as a luxury, with 62% eating less of it.

“When it comes to fast food, a lot of people have seemingly hit their limit in terms of price,” said Matt Schulz, chief credit analyst for Lending Tree.

A home-cooked meal is now the cheap, go-to choice for more than half the people surveyed.

“But it's not like going to the grocery store is a whole lot cheaper, and it's not like the fast-casual or sit-down kind of places are inexpensive either. So, it makes things really difficult for folks,” said Schulz.

A McDonald's sign in Wheeling, Illinois.

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The most recent Consumer Price Index shows fast food prices are up 4.8% compared to last year, while grocery prices are up 1.1%.

The President of McDonald’s USA, Joe Erlinger, addressed prices in an online letter to fans of the chain, saying in part, “inflationary pressures have affected all sectors of the economy, including ours.” Erlinger went on to write that most franchisees are offering meal bundles for $4 or less.

Erlinger also addressed social media claims that Big Mac prices are up 100%. He writes the average price of a Big Mac was $4.39 in 2019. Now, the average cost is $5.29, a 21% increase.

When you do have fast-food cravings, Lending Tree recommends utilizing savings from a company's mobile app, paying with plastic for cash back rewards, and ordering your favorite thing but skipping the combo option.