Watch CBS News

Top McDonald's exec says $18 Big Mac meal is "exception," not the rule

Consumers fed up with soaring fast food prices
Consumers fed up with soaring fast food prices 02:40

A top McDonald's executive on Wednesday decried "poorly sourced reports" that the fast-food giant has hiked its prices faster than inflation. 

"I can tell you that it frustrates and worries me, and many of our franchisees, when I hear about an $18 Big Mac meal being sold — even if it was at one location in the U.S. out of more than 13,700," Joe Erlinger, president of McDonald's USA, said in a letter posted on the restaurant chain's corporate website. "More worrying, though, is when people believe that this is the rule and not the exception, or when folks start to suggest that the prices of a Big Mac have risen 100% since 2019."

Erlinger said the average cost of a Big Mac is now $5.29, up 21% from $4.39 in 2019. McDonald's menu prices "remain well within the range of other quick service restaurants," added.

"Inflationary pressures have affected all sectors of the economy, including ours," Erlinger said. "Our franchisees (who own and operate more than 95% of all restaurants in the U.S.) set menu prices for their restaurants, which account for the increased costs of running their businesses."

Erlinger's letter comes nearly a year after a McDonald's customer in Connecticut went viral on social media for posting about a Big Mac combo meal priced at a $17.59.

The average price of a Quarter Pounder with cheese grew is now $5.39, up 20% from $4.49 in 2019, Erlinger's letter states. The average price of an Egg McMuffin is $4.29, up 23% from $3.49 in 2019, while the average cost of a 10-piece McNuggets meal is $9.19, up 28% from $7.19 five years ago.

But Erlinger also said McDonald's franchise owners have sought to keep a lid on prices. The letter comes amid signs that at least some Americans are reducing their fast-food consumption because of rising costs. 

McDonald's to launch $5 meal promo amid rising fast food prices 00:47

A January poll by consulting firm Revenue Management Solutions found that roughly a quarter of consumers who earn less than $50,000 a year were cutting back on fast food because of concerns about the price. 

McDonald's is planning to launch a limited-time $5 meal promotion in an effort to attract budget-conscious customers, while rivals such as Burger King and Wendy's are offering similar deals. More than 90% of McDonald's franchisees now offer meal combos for $4 or less, Erlinger said. 

"I fully expect the prices at your local McDonald's to be an area of conversation and focus in the coming months," he said. "As it does, I hope you'll see the programs we're launching nationally and locally as meaningful to you."

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.