If you want to save money when grabbing a quick bite to eat, don't visit this popular fast food chain.

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A Turning Point in Fast Food Price Hikes?

McDonald's Reports 3 Percent Drop In Revenue In Second Quarter
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Americans are becoming increasingly furious over the skyrocketing fast food prices. A McDonald's in Darien, Connecticut, went viral for all the wrong reasons this month for selling a Big Mac Meal for close to $20.

Chains have been pinning the blame on supply chain issues and inflation for their menu price hikes. While consumers begrudgingly tolerated the rising costs, it has seemingly hit a breaking point here in America.

McDonald's, which had long been viewed as America's most-affordable restaurant chain, had an underwhelming fourth quarter that rattled shareholders. Similar results impacted chains like Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, and Kentucky Fried Chicken.

When speaking to shareholders recently, McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempczinski seemed to have finally realized what most Americans have been screaming for a long time: fast food prices are out of control. He says McDonald's is now pivoting to putting more affordable options back on its menu to win back customers.

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What these chains forgot is that Americans didn't dine at these places because they were gourmet. People would patronize Burger King, Dunkin' or Wendy's because it meant a quick meal or coffee without breaking the bank. These restaurants were never in the same league as the Cheesecake Factory or Olive Garden.

Not that long ago, people joked about feeling rich when they walked into a Mickey Dees with more than $5 in their pocket. What does that $5 get you now? A small fry and a single ice cube?

As Kempczinski noted, more Americans are now spending their money on more affordable options or are now cooking at home, which is terrible news for fast-food chains.

While these restaurants continue to figure themselves out and get over their self-imposed identity crisis, a recent ranking from Mashed listed the chains that are the most and least friendly on the wallet.

America's Most Expensive Fast Food Chain

While one would think Five Guys or Chick-Fil-A would top this list, the worst offender was actually an extremely popular burger chain.

Scott Olson, Getty Images
Scott Olson, Getty Images

With 229 locations in New York, Wendy's has emerged as America's most-expensive fast food chain. The franchise has defended its higher prices because it serves "fresh, never frozen" beef. That is why when McDonald's and Burger King were slinging $.30 cent burgers in 1971, they charged $.55 cents.

That price imbalance has continued ever since, and fast food junkies can argue that the quality Wendy's had once had is long gone in the wake of the pandemic.

Looking at menu prices of the Wendy's in downtown Utica, a 10-piece chicken nuggets combo costs $12.11 before tax while a Baconator combo costs $16.11.  Comparing that to McDonald's, which Mashed dubbed the most cost-friendly chain, a 10-piece McNuggets meal costs $10.19 before tax and a bacon quarter pounder with cheese meal rings up at $11.19.

Wendy's menu costs rose the most out of all fast food chains between 2022 and 2023, with watch dogs saying their prices rose by 35 percent. Wendy's blamed inflation for the double-digit hikes.

Economists are even starting to weigh in on whether or not this jeopardizes Wendy's survival since Americans are becoming increasingly frugal amid record inflation. Data suggests people are now more likely to patronize a business for its affordable prices than quality or brand loyalty.

The Most Expensive Chains in America

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Mashed also revealed the other chains cost-conscious Americans should avoid. Coming in second was Chick-fil-A.

Combo meals at Chick-fil-A can cost as high as $15 for a Cool Wrap with a side and a drink, and more than $12 for a Spicy Chicken Sandwich Deluxe Meal, depending on location.

Chipotle was also made the list. The chain also went viral after a TikTok user complained that her burrito bowl cost her $19.82.

Panera came in as the nation's fourth most-expensive chain with experts saying the average meal will cost consumers about $15. KFC rounded out the top 5 because their Family Meal cost nearly $60. In downtown Utica, the cost of a 16-piece chicken meal, which comes with four sides and 8 biscuits, costs $54.99 before tax.

Read More: America's Least Favorite Fast Food Chain Has 195 Locations in NY

On the flipside, the nation's most inexpensive chains were respectively McDonald's, Taco Bell, Burger King, Jack in the Box, and Subway.

Do you think fast food prices will ever go down again, or do you think these high prices are the new normal?

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