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McDonald's says $18 Big Mac meal was an 'exception' and news reports overstated its price increases

The Associated Press

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 $5.29, a 20.5% increase.

“For a brand that proudly serves nearly 90% 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 $18, calling the price “an exception.” He noted that franchisees own and operate 95% of U.S. McDonald’s locations and set their own pricing but “work hard to minimize the impact of price increases.”

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The average U.S. price of a Big Mac meal, which includes a sandwich, fries and a drink, currently is $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 $2.29 in 2019 and is $3.29 now, a 44% increase.

McDonald’s said the average price of all menu items has risen 40% over the last five years, to account for a 40% average increase in the cost of labor, paper and food. That is higher than overall consumer prices, which have increased 21% 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 $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.

Dee-ann Durbin, The Associated Press