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McDonald's says US$18 Big Mac meal was an 'exception' and their prices haven't risen that much

A McDonald's sign is seen above one of the fast food chain's locations in downtown Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel) A McDonald's sign is seen above one of the fast food chain's locations in downtown Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)
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McDonald’s is fighting back against viral tweets and media reports that it says have exaggerated its price increases.

In a post on the company’s website Wednesday, McDonald’s U.S. President Joe Erlinger said reports suggesting the price of the average Big Mac has doubled since 2019 were false. McDonald’s said the average U.S. Big Mac was $4.39 in 2019 and now costs US$5.29, a 20.5 per cent increase.

“For a brand that proudly serves nearly 90 per cent of the U.S. population every year, we feel a responsibility to make sure the real facts are available,” Erlinger said.

Erlinger acknowledged that he and many franchisees were frustrated by a post on X last summer about a Big Mac meal in Connecticut that cost US$18, calling the price “an exception.” He noted that franchisees own and operate 95 per cent of U.S. McDonald’s locations and set their own pricing but “work hard to minimize the impact of price increases.”

The average U.S. price of a Big Mac meal, which includes a sandwich, fries and a drink, currently is US$9.29.

Still, the Chicago burger giant said the cost of some items have seen bigger price jumps than the Big Mac. The average price of medium fries was US$2.29 in 2019 and is US$3.29 now, a 44 per cent increase.

A photo of a Big Mac, McDonald's signature sandwich. (AP file)

McDonald’s said the average price of all menu items has risen 40 per cent over the last five years, to account for a 40 per cent average increase in the cost of labour, paper and food. That is higher than overall consumer prices, which have increased 21 per cent since December 2019, according to government figures.

McDonald’s saw a marked slowdown in store traffic in the first three months of this year as inflation-weary customers in the U.S. and other big markets ate out less often. As a result, the company promised more deals.

Next month, McDonald’s is expected to introduce a US$5 meal deal across the U.S. that will include a sandwich, a four-piece McNugget, small fries and a small drink.

Erlinger said he hopes customers will find the company’s upcoming deals “meaningful.”

“It’s clear that we — together with our franchisees — must remain laser-focused on value and affordability,” Erlinger said.

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