While food prices should be expected to rise over time with the natural progression of inflation, you might be surprised by how cheap some of your favorite fast food items were in the past. If you were around in the 1950s and ’60s, for example, you could probably feed your family of four for less than $2 at McDonald’s or Burger King!
Fast food brands like these are subject to price increases over time, but it can be difficult to predict how much prices will rise by looking at inflation. There is a myriad of factors that impact the prices of your favorite fast food items, including employees’ wages.
According to a report from The Heritage Foundation, if fast food restaurants were to raise the minimum wage for workers to $15 an hour, the restaurants’ total costs would increase by about 15 percent. What does this mean for menu prices? Prices would have to increase by approximately 15 percent as well. The price increase doesn’t stop there, though; if sales decrease by 14 percent, the average fast food joint would likely have to raise its prices by a whopping 38 percent.
So although the cost of fast food has increased since you, your parents or your grandparents were kids, you should enjoy the current, relatively low prices while you can. From Wendy’s to Starbucks — and cheeseburgers to coffee — take a look at how much classic burgers, fries, drinks and other items have increased in price throughout the years.
1. McDonald’s Big Mac
Perhaps one of McDonald’s most iconic menu items, the Big Mac has experienced a drastic price change over the years. From 1968 to January 2015, the price of a Big Mac jumped from around $0.49 to $4.79, according to Desert News and The Economist.
2. McDonald’s Cheeseburger
The Big Mac is not the only price spike you can find in the McDonald’s burger family. In 1955, a McDonald’s cheeseburger was only $0.19, reports the Chicago Tribune. Today, it costs $1, and a double cheeseburger is $1.59.
3. McDonald’s Fries
Say what you will about McDonald’s other menu items, but it’s hard to complain about its fries — which are arguably priceless. In the 1950s, fries were only $0.10, as seen in this photo from The Huffington Post. Nowadays, fries range from $1.29 to $1.79.
4. Burger King’s Whopper
Another popular burger fast food joint, Burger King’s famous Whopper is much more expensive now than it was in the 1950s. In 1957, a Whopper cost only $0.37 — today that price is $3.99.
5. Burger King’s Double Whopper
Like the Whopper, Burger King has seen the price of the Double Whopper rise from $2.99 in 2002, all the way to its current price at $5.09. So for an extra patty on your bun, expect to pay an additional $1.10.
6. Wendy’s Single
Over the last 13 years, Wendy’s single nearly doubled in price. The sandwich cost only $2.25 in 2002, and the Dave’s Hot ‘n Juicy 1/4 lb. Single with Cheese now runs at $4.19.
7. Wendy’s Frosty
Wendy’s Frosty has seen a relatively stable price for some time. In 1969, this dessert cost just $0.35. Now, a small Classic Frosty costs $0.99.
8. In-N-Out’s Cheeseburger
National burger chains aren’t the only fast food restaurants that have raised their prices. In 1948, an In-N-Out cheeseburger cost only $0.30, according to the San Gabriel Valley Tribune. But by 2015, the price had increased to $2.35.
9. KFC’s Family Bucket
Back in the day, you could feed your family with KFC’s Family Bucket — which included 15 pieces of chicken and six hot rolls — for only $4.90. Today, the family meals range from $13.49 to $42.99.
10. Pizza Hut’s Large Cheese Pizza
At Pizza Hut, a large mozzarella cheese pizza cost only $1.50 in 1958, according to this photo of the original menu. Currently, the only thing you can buy at the pizza joint for around that price is maybe a bottle of water. A large hand-tossed cheese pizza now costs $10.49.
11. Taco Bell’s Bean Burrito
Here’s another fast food item that nearly doubled in price over the years. Taco Bell’s bean burrito was only $0.69 in 2002, but the price increased to $1.19 in 2013. Today, a bean burrito will set you back $1.29.
12. Starbucks’ Tall Coffee
Starbucks has been able to increase prices even as other players jump into the premium coffee business. In 1994, a tall Starbucks coffee cost $1.25, but by 2013 that price had risen to $1.96, reports Bloomberg Business. In 2015, a tall freshly brewed coffee is around $1.75.