Americans want even cheaper fast food

Illustration for article titled Americans want even cheaper fast food
Photo: Jeffrey Greenberg/UIG (Getty Images)

In recent years, fast-food chains have deemphasized their value menus. They’re instead focusing on higher-quality ingredients like Wendy’s never-frozen beef campaign, or touting their environmental moves like McDonald’s pledge to cut its greenhouse gas emissions. That’s all well and good, but in 2018, consumers are pushing fast food to return to its cheap-and-fast roots. The dollar deals are back, baby.

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Reuters reports that in response to slower consumer spending, fast-food chains are renewing their focus on value menus. Sales of value-menu items were up 13 percent in the first three months of 2018 as consumers opt for the cheaper choices. Taco Bell, for example, scored a huge hit when it debuted Nacho Fries earlier this year, not least of all because they just cost a dollar.

It’s hard to imagine a time before 4-for-$4 value menus and $5 lunch combos, but it was only in 2002 when McDonald’s changed the game with its revolutionary dollar menu. The bar was raised—or lowered—when it came to super-affordable fast food, and America got used to the idea of burgers, fries, and nuggets for just a buck.

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Sure, you can spend a little more at trendy fast-food chains like Shake Shack or In-N-Out, but if you’ve only got 3 bucks in your pocket, the Taco Bells, Burger Kings, and McDonald’s of the world are ready to fight for it.

Kate Bernot is a freelance writer and a certified beer judge. She was previously managing editor at The Takeout.

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DISCUSSION

I am old enough to remember when all fast food was sold a la carte and how exciting it was when McDonald’s rolled out the value meal. I think the first two were for the Big Mac and the Quarter Pounder with cheese and they cost $2.99 in my city, which was $3.24 with tax. It was awesome, so yes, it is terrible that the same meal now costs around $8. The drink may be bigger, but nothing else is and even with rising food costs, that seems like a lot more money for the same amount of food. I don’t need the dollar menu, but the prices for fast food don’t make it worth it anymore and you really can get better food for the same or less money, without looking too hard in most places.