Fast Food Is More Expensive Now Than It Was Before the Pandemic

The rising cost of basic goods is a major contributor to the recent price increases.


For the better part of 2021, experts warned us that prices on basic goods would be rising.

Supply chain issues disrupted the availability of everything from chicken wings to Champagne, and inflation didn't help matters either. In 2022, the inflation rate is projected to increase by 2.30%

In December, studies revealed that both eating in and eating out have gotten more expensive. But fast food, a staple of cheap eating in the US, is also affected. Since eating in restaurants has become a bit more dangerous, and cooking at home can become monotonous, fast food chains have become more popular. According to Eat This, Not That, fast food was more popular in 2021 than in 2020 and 2019, especially among families. While many chains adapted to the needs of the time, offering more touchless and contactless options to accommodate social distancing and other health guidelines, they couldn't combat rising costs and staff shortages.

As the supply chain has impacted the cost of the basic components of fast-food staples (think chicken, eggs, and pork), prices at many chains have increased throughout the year. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, prices at limited-service restaurants rose 7.1% compared to last October—the highest increase since the bureau started recording these statistics. The supply chain, which is basically just how goods get transported from producer to consumer, has been stretched thin during the pandemic. The cost to transport goods has increased, there is a labor shortage to complete the actual transportation, and ports are backed up due to various logistical issues. These factors increase production costs, which translate directly to an increase for the consumer.

The pandemic has also affected the demand for labor in the fast food chains themselves. Across the country, nearly 20 million workers have left the US workforce since April 2021. Many in the service industry used the increase in demand for workers to negotiate for better working conditions and wages. The lack of workers and the increased cost to pay workers have impacted corporations. 

You'll likely have already noticed the change––Little Caesars increased the cost of its Hot-N-Ready pizzas for the first time in 25 years, from $5 to $5.55. According to Business Insider, Krispy Kreme increased prices in 2021 and plans to do it again soon. BI also reports that the chains with the most significant price increases were Taco Bell, McDonald's, Dunkin', Chipotle, and The Cheesecake Factory. But Taco Bell, with a 10% increase in prices overall, was the highest jump in prices, followed by McDonald's and Dunkin' at 8%.

Factoring in even the highest price change of 10% at Taco Bell, that only changes the price from $5.79 for a Burrito Supreme, Crunchy Taco, and large drink combo up to $6.39. While not ideal, it seems like a price increase we can swallow. 

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Opheli Garcia Lawler is a staff writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @opheligarcia and Instagram @opheligarcia.