McDonald’s Says $18 Big Mac Meal Was an ‘Exception’

McDonald's is addressing viral tweets and media reports that it claims have overstated its price hikes. On Wednesday, McDonald’s U.S. President Joe Erlinger stated on the company’s website that allegations of the average Big Mac price doubling since 2019 are inaccurate. McDonald’s reported that the average price of a Big Mac in the U.S. was $4.39 in 2019 and is now $5.29, marking a 20.5% increase. “As a brand that serves nearly 90% of the U.S. population annually, we feel obligated to provide accurate information,” Erlinger said. 

Erlinger admitted he and many franchisees were upset by a post on X last summer about an $18 Big Mac meal in Connecticut, calling it an “anomaly.” He pointed out that franchisees, who own and operate 95% of U.S. McDonald’s locations and set their own prices, strive to limit the impact of price increases. The average U.S. price of a Big Mac meal, including a sandwich, fries, and a drink, is currently $9.29. However, McDonald's acknowledged that some items have experienced steeper price hikes than the Big Mac. Medium fries, for example, went from $2.29 in 2019 to $3.29 now, a 44% increase.

McDonald’s stated that the average price of all menu items has risen by 40% over the past five years, reflecting a 40% average increase in the cost of labor, paper, and food. This is higher than the overall consumer prices, which have gone up by 21% since December 2019, according to government data. The company noted a significant decline in store traffic in the first quarter of this year as inflation-weary customers in the U.S. and other major markets ate out less frequently. In response, McDonald's has promised more deals.

Next month, McDonald’s plans to introduce a $5 meal deal nationwide that will include a sandwich, a four-piece McNugget, small fries, and a small drink. Erlinger expressed hope that customers will find the upcoming deals "meaningful.” He emphasized that the company, along with its franchisees, must stay focused on value and affordability.  

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