Fast Food Now Viewed as a ‘Luxury’ by Many Americans, Survey Finds

A significant portion of those surveyed, or 63 percent, believe fast food should be cheaper than cooking at home.

AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, file
The price of a McDonald's Big Mac has risen some 10 percent since President Biden took office. AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, file

Fast food was once fast and cheap. Now, though, it’s just fast … sometimes.

A new survey has found that 78 percent of consumers now consider fast food to be a “luxury” purchase due to the rising costs of meals. The survey, conducted by LendingTree using nonprobability sampling, highlights the growing financial strain on many Americans.

Of that 78 percent, half indicated that they view fast food as a luxury because of their financial struggles. This sentiment is particularly strong among Americans earning less than $30,000 a year, with 71 percent of this group agreeing. Similarly, 58 percent of parents with young children and Gen Zers also expressed similar sentiments.

Despite America’s longstanding love affair with fast food, the majority of respondents reported reducing their consumption due to high prices. The findings show that while three out of four Americans typically eat fast food once a week, 62 percent are now doing so less frequently because of the cost.

A significant portion of those surveyed, or 63 percent, believe fast food should be cheaper than cooking at home. However, 75 percent argue that this is no longer the case. Nearly half of Americans, or 46 percent, say that a meal at a fast-food restaurant costs about the same as one at their local sit-down restaurants, and 22 percent claim that fast food is actually more expensive.

Price hikes in the fast-food sector have notably outpaced inflation in recent years. Data from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis shows that the cost of fast-food meals has surged by 41 percent since 2017, compared to a 35.9 percent rise in the consumer price index, Fox Business reports.

Dan O’Donnell, a columnist for the free-market think tank the MacIver Institute, wrote in a blog post that prices for basic items like McDonald’s cheeseburgers and Chick-fil-A nuggets have risen as much as 200 percent in less than five years. He highlighted the adverse effects these increases have on lower- and middle-class families who are primary consumers of fast food, Fox reported.

“Fast food patrons are generally lower-income earners — many with young children — who rely on a quick, affordable meal before soccer practice or a band concert,” Mr. O’Donnell wrote. “When prices at these restaurants spike from $35-$40 for a family meal to $65-$70 in just a few years, those families either have to sacrifice a night out or extend themselves just a little further to afford it.”

The LendingTree survey also found that when looking for an easy, inexpensive meal, 56 percent of respondents prefer making food at home. The trend is becoming more common as people seek to mitigate the cost-of-living crisis.

The New York Sun

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