Fast food should be cheap, shouldn't it? The idea of swinging by or driving through a McDonald's or a Wendy's is all about convenience and cost effectiveness. Today, however, with the growing demands for fast-food outlets to shape up and offer healthy options on their ever-expanding menus, prices have been rising. And from the Fiesta Taco Salad at Taco Bell to the Big Philly Cheesesteak at Subway, some fast-food menu items are a bit pricier than you might expect. And with fast-food workers rising up across the country to demand higher pay, we thought we'd take a look at just how much time would need to be logged by them in order to afford the most expensive items on their respective menus. Photo Credit: © Flickr /mhaithaca
Dollar menus and value menus still exist throughout the U.S. for most large-scale fast-food brands. But if you're looking for a sizable salad or a hearty burger with all the fixings that might resemble something you'd get in a sit-down restaurant, you can expect to pay up.
Haris Bacic, founder of Fastfoodmenuprices.com, told The Daily Meal that the rise of health-conscious consumers has in turn made fast-food restaurants step up their game to add healthier meals to their menus, including items such as grilled chicken sandwiches, grilled chicken wraps, and the like. "Those are the items that are usually the most expensive, which makes sense," said Bacic. "As the quality of food increases, so do the prices. This applies to the fast-casual restaurants such as Panera Bread as well, which are drastically more expensive than the average fast-food restaurant due to quality and freshness of the food served."
Other items, like super-sized burgers and sandwiches, tend to be on the upper end of the price spectrum. At Subway, their most expensive menu item is the foot-long Big Philly Cheesesteak, similar to its sub shop competitor Jimmy John's, which has a sandwich called the J.J. Gargantuan. This beauty is 8 inches long and clocks in just less than $8. With the federal minimum wage currently holding steady at $7.25, that means that a worker there would need to work for more than an hour to afford it.
At Wendy's, their Baconator sandwich is the priciest, while a variety of their signature salads come in a close second. Steak 'n Shake has a similar situation; their Southwest Chicken Salad and Apple Pecan Salad tie for the priciest menu items along with their California steak burger.
On the international front, fast-food prices are soaring even higher, particularly in Japan . McDonald's has recently rolled out two of the most expensive burgers the chain has ever had on their menus. The Quarter Pounder BLT and the Quarter Pounder Habanero Tomato weigh in at about 520 to 570 yen, which is equivalent to $5.35 to $5.90 in the U.S., and 480 to 520 yen, $4.95 to $5.35, respectively.
Fastfoodmenuprices.com puts together their price listings by gathering many menus in order to average the prices for each particular fast-food establishment, so that it can create a general price for each item on the menu. The prices are one to three months old and updated frequently, noted Bacic.
While compiling our list, The Daily Meal took into account Fastfoodmenuprices.com's research as well as additional industry prices for individual fast-food chains. And with the federal minimum wage at 12.5 cents per minute, we did some math and calculated exactly how long a minimum-wage employee would have to work in order to afford the most expensive thing on the menu at 20 major chains.
-Kristen Oliveri, The Daily Meal
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Similar to Wendy’s pricing structure, the most expensive menu items at Steak 'n Shake are their specialty hamburgers and their full-sized salads. Steak 'n Shakes are found mostly in the Midwest and Southern states and are quite appealing to consumers because of their 24-hour policy. The restaurant’s Steakburgers are beef burgers made from T-bone, sirloin, and round steaks, which make the quality of the food higher in direct contrast with many of their competitors. Their salads, along with the California Steak Burger, cost $6.49. Photo Credit: © Flickr /arsheffield Click Here to see More on Whether Fast Food Employees Can Even Afford Fast Food
Chipotle Mexican Grill is known as a fast-casual dining establishment. Patrons can choose from a variety of options such as burrito bowls, burritos, tacos, and salads and can choose to add on toppings like salsa and guacamole. All of their items use natural and organic ingredients. Their single most expensive item is their burrito bowl, consisting of rice and a choice of meat. However, if guests choose to add on cheese, extra meat or chicken, and guacamole, the price increases dramatically and can often times cost more than $10. The burrito bowl itself without any additions with carnitas or barbacoa (choices of meat) comes in at $6.65. Photo Credit: Beth Galton
With more than 1,300 Long John Silver’s restaurants worldwide, the seafood fast-food chain has made a name for itself by serving larger meals as opposed to singular items. They offer a variety of platters and family meals that are extremely cost-effective. The most expensive singular item is the shrimp basket that costs $6.79. Photo Credit: Long John Silvers
Jimmy John’s is a fast-food sub shop that competes with Subway and Quiznos. While the other two offer a variety of sizes of subs, Jimmy John’s offers 8-inch subs, making them a bit pricier. Their most expensive menu item is the J. J. Gargantuan, a sub filled with Genoa salami, sliced smoked ham, capicola, roast beef, turkey, and provolone, served on a homemade French bun smothered with onions, mayo, lettuce, tomato, and their homemade Italian dressing. The oversized sub costs $7.59. Photo Credit: Jimmy Johns Click Here to see More on Whether Fast Food Employees Can Even Afford Fast Food
White Castle, a burger chain famous for its small sliders, is usually on the lower-end of the cost spectrum for fast-food purveyors. However, one of their pricier singular items is the sack of fish nibblers that costs $7.99, quite high compared to their single sliders that go for $0.69. Photo Credit: © Flickr /mbk
Denver-based sandwich shop Quiznos offers an array of options when it comes to large and small sandwiches. Quiznos is second to Subway in terms of overall revenue and popularity, and offers a variety of other menu options beyond subs that include flatbreads, salads, and soups. Currently, the top tier menu item is the black Angus steak on rosemary focaccia, which costs $7.99. Photo Credit: © Flickr /mbk
Subway, the number one sandwich chain in the U.S., has a wide array of sub options that vary in pricing. But their biggest, most outrageously expensive menu item is the foot-long Big Philly Cheesesteak that costs a cool $8.25. Dubbed a "meat lover’s dream" by the company, the sandwich includes sliced steak smothered with melted cheese. Photo Credit: Subway
Panera Bread has been rising in the ranks when it comes to healthier fast-casual options. This restaurant offers a number of different menu options, including sandwiches, paninis, salads, soups, and pasta. Currently, the pasta bar tops the list of highest-priced food items. The large pesto Sechettinni pasta costs $9.99, as does the rustic penne Bolognese. Click Here to see More on Whether Fast Food Employees Can Even Afford Fast Food Photo Credit: Panera
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