Your favorite fast food chicken sandwich likely costs more today than it did six months ago.
Despite inflation cooling down in July (up 8.5% versus June’s 9.1%), food prices continue to skyrocket.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ July Consumer Price Index (CPI), the cost of food rose 10.9% — the highest increase since May of 1979 — with chicken prices soaring 17.6%.
Exclusive data provided by Edison Mail (formerly Edison Trends) underscores the impact that higher prices have had on fast food chains, particularly on their popular chicken sandwiches.
Between January 2022 and July 2022, the average price paid for a chicken sandwich rose 14% to $4.58 (up from $4.03 in January.) That price was also up 18% compared to the year-ago period when consumers paid $3.88 on average for a chicken sandwich in July 2021.
The results, which exclude combo meals, were based on over 240,000 online direct orders from ten popular quick-service restaurants, including McDonald’s, Burger King, Popeyes, Chick-fil-A, Whataburger, and more.
To dig into the data more specifically — as these chains offer multiple sandwiches with varying prices points — the analytics platform studied over 90,000 direct online orders from three of fast food’s top chicken sandwich sellers: McDonald’s, Popeyes and Chick-fil-A.
Since January, the price of both Popeyes’ Spicy Chicken Sandwich (QSR) and McDonald’s Spicy Crispy Chicken Sandwich (MCD) rose 13%, with average prices increasing by $0.57 and $0.49, respectively.
McDonald’s McChicken increased slightly less than the chain’s spicy option, up 12% since January (or $0.17), while Chick-fil-A’s Chicken Sandwich jumped 8% (or $0.34.)
On a year-over-year basis, Popeyes’ Spicy Chicken Sandwich, which has an average price of $4.80 as of July, saw a 22% increase compared to its average price of $3.92 in July 2021.
McDonald’s Spicy Crispy Chicken Sandwich saw its average price jump 15% year-over-year, followed by Chick-fil-A’s Chicken Sandwich (+14%) and McDonald’s McChicken (+13%.)
For further context, the price of the McDonald’s McChicken increased by only 4% over July 2020 to July 2021, while the Chick-fil-A Chicken Sandwich increased just 3%. The Popeyes Spicy Chicken Sandwich declined 6% during that same time period.
‘Seeing some trade down’
Restaurant executives have noted the pressures facing both consumers and businesses amid record-high inflation, with a particular focus on lower income consumers.
McDonald’s, which beat earnings estimates in its most recent quarter, saw same-store sales rise 3.7% — driven by menu price hikes.
CFO Kevin Ozan said that the company is “seeing some trade down” amid the current environment, explaining, “We’re seeing customers, and specifically lower income customers, trade down to value offerings and fewer combo meals.”
McDonald’s executives surmised that the impact of inflation will continue into the end of the year with menu prices up in the high single digits and a “little higher than” last quarter when prices rose roughly 8%.
Yum Brands (YUM) CEO David Gibbs added that the global consumer is “getting more cautious” with the pullback seen in lower-income consumers becoming “more pronounced.”
Similarly, Chipotle (CMG) CEO Brian Niccol noted on the earnings call that the company has seen a retreat from lower-income consumers, but “fortunately for Chipotle … the majority of our customers are a higher household income consumer.”
The restaurant chain announced planned price increases in August “in the mid to high-single digits” to help offset rising costs. The company raised menu prices by 4% in the first quarter of 2022 (on top of earlier price hikes in June 2021 and December 2021.)
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