Fast Food Prices Reportedly Jumped by 8% in 2021

by Megan Molseed
(Photo by Budrul Chukrut/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Our love for fast food certainly hasn’t declined – and, apparently, neither have the prices at these popular chain restaurants. According to reports, the price of menu items at some of the most popular chain restaurants have seen an increase by as much as 8% over the last year. It is a strange phenomenon, really. Over the last year, many of the most popular fast-food chains such as McDonald’s, Wendys, Chick-fil-A, KFC, Chipotle, and more haven’t seen a decline in sales. In fact, if anything, sales have increased quite a bit throughout 2021.

It’s clear that sales at the popular restaurants have increased. And, several factors have likely led to the rising costs that we have seen throughout 2021. One major factor that is likely leading to major cost increases is labor shortages. Since the pandemic changed the course of consumerism in 2020 and 2021, many popular fast-food companies have been seeing their costs skyrocket as they claim to be unable to find workers to fill multiple job openings. Of course, technological advances have minimized the effects of a labor shortage, at least a little bit. Now, many restaurants have added self-checkout options in their lobbies so we can bypass the order line completely. But, this doesn’t seem to have worked towards keeping the fast-food costs down overall.

Rising Meat Prices Likely Cause of Increases In Fast-Food Prices

Another likely reason for these price increases is that the cost of food has increased immensely over the last year. Throughout 2021, customers have seen the costs of staple items such as chicken, eggs, beef, and pork skyrocket. It’s not unlikely that these increased prices are being passed on to the consumer.

Chicken is a popular item at many fast-food chains. Many fast-food chains such as Chick-Fil-A, Popeyes, and KFC specialize in chicken-based items. Additionally, a menu favorite at restaurants such as McDonald’s or Wendys is often the chicken sandwich or a nugget meal. However, the price of chicken has climbed immensely over the last year, nearly doubling. Pork prices have also increased quite a bit increasing by 14.1% and beef prices have soared as much as 20.1%. These increases are certainly part of the reason big restaurant chains are increasing their regular prices.

“We think everybody in the restaurant industry is going to have to pass those costs along to the customer,” says Chipotle CFO Jack Hartung of the recent price increases.

Last summer, it was reported that some restaurant chains have increased their prices quite a bit. The highest increase could be seen at Taco Bell. The prices at this fast-food taco go-to went up as high as 10%. McDonald’s, Dunkin’ Chipotle, and The Cheesecake factory have all reported increases to their menu items as high as 8%. According to reports, these increases peaked at a rate of 7.1% higher than October 2020.