A quick, cheap meal before the pandemic might run you slightly over $5, depending on where you went. Nuggets, burgers, tacos, and pizza are fast food staples and are still considered a quick and easy meal. However, after many waves of COVID, political turmoil, and rising inflation, it may no longer be an inexpensive option. In a post-lockdown world, restaurants are still providing value meals; they’re just redefining what value means.
In the dining-out realm, fast food reigns supreme as the biggest bang for your buck. However, there have been a few bumps in the past few years. The cost of ingredients has skyrocketed, and staff shortages have plagued the restaurant industry, leaving owners to think outside the box with their menus and strategies. Making sure the bottom line is still profitable, many restaurants have tweaked their menu, said CNBC, making meals just a pinch smaller. Burger King has changed their 10-piece chicken nugget value meal to 8, and removed the Whopper from the value menu altogether, said the article. McDonald’s has also dropped its Dollar Menu, and Subway has discontinued its $5 Footlong deal.
Menu Prices are Increasing
Not only are the portions getting smaller, but the price tags are also getting bigger. Little Caesar’s raised the price of its Hot-N-Ready Pizza by 55 cents, reported Forbes, and the future of the value menu seems to be through utilizing apps. According to CNN, Dominos raised the price of its Mix and Match delivery deal by a dollar this year and made certain take-out deals only available through their mobile app. Popeyes jumped aboard this solution also with their Big Box Deal, which is $5 through their app, and $6 in-store, said Chewboom.
Burger King is also on the road to purely digital. In an article by Business Insider, Burger King eliminated all paper coupons, changed at least a dozen items on their menu, and raised prices on nuggets, fries, and burgers. The company decided on marketing and offering deals through digital advertising to entice a younger generation of customers, said Restaurant Business.
Taco Bell is another chain focusing on digital-only deals. A strategy they are using, said Insider, is a limited-time only deal, higher-priced and online only. In November 2021, Taco Bell brought back the Grilled Cheese Burrito for the first time in a year to boost profits and also offered wings for just one week, for $5.99. These menu shifts are meant to excite customers with more expensive items while quietly taking the more inexpensive ones off the menu.
Menu changes, price changes, and redefining the dining-out experience is the driving force behind fast food, but value is still…well, valuable at Denny’s. They’ve decided to continue offering value deals at their restaurants, even when it means a lower profit margin, said Restaurant Business. They offer an endless breakfast deal for $6.99, including unlimited pancakes, eggs, and hashbrowns. “We don’t view that a value strategy is a negative to margins,” Robert Verostek, CFO of Denny’s, said in the article. “In fact, we believe that it will drive margins higher.”
Inflation has altered so many things in our world, and restaurants are no exception. While dining out is making a comeback as a favorite American pastime, we may need to tweak our expectations on what value now means.