Nearly 80% of Americans now consider fast food a ‘luxury’ due to high prices

Survey: Half the respondents believe that fast food is too expensive for them because they are struggling financially.

Has the drive-through been deemed an unnecessary extravagance by many? Most Americans agree.

LendingTree conducted a nonprobability study that found 78% consumers consider fast food a luxury purchase because of how expensive it has become.

The polled half of respondents said that fast food is a luxury for them because they are struggling financially. This is particularly true for Americans making less than $30k a year (71%), parents of young children (58%), or Gen Zers (58%).

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The majority of Americans say that they are cutting back on their consumption because of high prices. Three out of four Americans eat fast food on average once a week. However, 62% of respondents say they are eating less of it due to cost.

63% of respondents agreed that fast food should be less expensive than eating at home. However, 75% disagree. Nearly half (46%) of Americans say that a meal in a fast food restaurant is about the same price as a similar meal in a local sit-down restaurant. 22% believe fast food to be more expensive.

In recent years, the price of fast-food has risen faster than inflation. Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis data shows that the cost of fast food meals has increased by 41% since 2017. The consumer price index, however, has only risen 35.9%.

In a blog posting on Thursday, columnist Dan O’Donnell from the MacIver Institute free-market think tank wrote that the prices of “basic items” like McDonald’s Cheeseburgers and Chick-fil-A Nuggets had risen by as much as 200 percent in less than five year with dire consequences for lower- and middle-class customers who are a large part of the fast-food customer base.

O’Donnell wrote that “Fast-food patrons tend to be lower-income earners, many of whom have young children. They rely on a fast and affordable meal before a soccer match or a concert.” When prices for a meal at a fast food restaurant go from $35 to $40 to $65 to 70 in a few short years, families are forced to either sacrifice a night on the town or stretch themselves a bit further to pay.

When asked what they do to make a cheap, easy meal, 56% said that they cook at home. This is what many people are doing.

McDonald’s, Starbucks and other global restaurant chains have noticed that lower-income consumers are eating more at home due to the cost of living crisis. This has led to them offering steeper promotional offers in an effort to lure back customers.

Wendy’s launched a budget-friendly $3 breakfast this week and McDonald’s plans a $5 combination meal for June. These offers will only be available for a short time.