These Fast Food Menus From The Past Make It Shockingly Clear How Much More We're Paying Today

·6 min read

Hello, fellow fast food fanatics! There's one question I've spent way too much time pondering: Does fast food cost more today than it used to?

Bet

I'm talking, of course, about when you look at its cost when adjusted for inflation. Obviously, it costs more today, but does it actually hit our wallets harder?

To figure this out, I thought I'd use the many photos of old fast food menus floating around the internet, but unfortunately, none of them are dated accurately. For example, I've seen the menu below posted five or six times, but it's always said to be from a different year (ranging from the '60s to the '80s).

But then, I had an epiphany! There had to be old menus from fast food restaurants on Getty Images*, and all of their photos are accurately dated. Well, I looked...and there were!

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*Getty Images, if you didn't know, is a company with a massive library of stock and editorial photographs. All of the menu photos below were taken by professional photographers, mainly for publications, and are accurately dated.

LONG STORY SHORT...with these photos, we can finally answer my burning question! So, let's find out...does fast food only seem more costly today because of inflation? Or, have fast food restaurants jacked up their prices over the years even more than what's to be expected from inflation?

Here's how we'll find out: We'll take the price of an item from the past and — using an inflation calculator — learn exactly how much it would cost in 2022 due to inflation and inflation alone. And then, we'll look at the actual 2022 price to see if restaurants have raised the prices on us beyond that point.

One last note: The "today" prices are all taken from fast food restaurants in the greater Los Angeles area.

OK! Let's start with Starbucks! This menu photo was taken December 28, 2005 in Wheeling, Illinois.

A Starbucks menu
Tim Boyle / Getty Images

In 2005, a Tall Cappuccino cost $2.65, which is the equivalent of $4.02 now. Today, it costs $4.25.

"23c more today!"

In 2005, a Tall Caramel Macchiato cost $3, which is the equivalent of $4.55 now. Today, it costs $4.95.

"40c more today!"

In 2005, a Tall White Chocolate Mocha cost $3.35, which is the equivalent of $5.08 now. Today, it costs $5.25.

$17c more today!

In 2005, a Tall Mocha Frap cost $3.10, which is the equivalent of $4.70 now. Today, it costs $4.95.

"25c more today!"

VERDICT: No matter what you order, Starbucks costs more today than it used to.

Screenshot of Starbucks online menu

On to McDonald's! This menu photo was taken July 1978 in Southfield, Michigan.

McDonalds workers
Barbara Alper / Getty Images

In 1978, a Big Mac cost 90¢, which is the equivalent of $4.09 now. Today, it costs $5.29.

"$1.20 more today!"

In 1978, a Quarter Pounder with Cheese cost 95¢, which is the equivalent of $4.32 now. Today, it's $5.39.

"$1.07 more today!"

In 1978, a hamburger cost 35¢, which is the equivalent of $1.59 now. Today, it costs $1.99.

"40c more today!"

In 1978, a Cheeseburger cost 40¢, which is the equivalent of $1.82. Today, it costs $2.19.

"37c more today!"

In 1978, a Filet-O-Fish cost 65¢, which is the equivalent of $2.95. Today, it costs $4.69.

"Costs $1.74 more!"

In 1978, small French Fries cost 35¢, which is the equivalent of $1.59 now. Today, it costs $2.49.

"Costs 90c more!"

In 1978, an Egg McMuffin cost 90¢, which is the equivalent of $4.09. Today, it costs $4.49.

"Costs 40c more!"

In 1978, a hash brown cost 30¢, which is the equivalent of $1.36 now. Today, it costs $2.59.

"$1.23 more!"

VERDICT: If your local McDonald's menu (like mine below) seems a lot costlier today, that's because it is...especially if you're old enough to have eaten there in the late '70s.

McDonald's menu

One question I ask myself, though, is if the portions are bigger today than back in the day. Like, yes, fries are more today, but do we get more in an order? Yes, a Big Mac is more, but is it larger than in 1978? That I don't know! (And, of course, it's possible they're smaller today.)

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Our next stop is at...Subway! This menu was photographed December 29, 2003 in Chicago.

Subway menu
Tim Boyle / Getty Images

In 2003, a 6-inch Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki cost $3.69, which is the equivalent of $5.60 now. Today, it costs $6.39.

"79c more today!"
Subway / Via subway.com

VERDICT: At least based on this one perennially popular sandwich, we're paying more today...about 14% more, in fact, since 2003.

Subway menu

Alright! Burger King time! This menu photo was taken in Maine on November 4, 2005.

Burger King menu
Portland Press Herald / Getty Images

In 2005, the Sausage, Egg and Cheese Croissan'wich Meal cost $3.09, which is the equivalent of $4.69 now. Today, it costs $6.69.

"$2 more today!"
Burger King

In 2005, a medium coffee cost $1.19, which is the equivalent of $1.81 now. Today, it costs $1.91.

"10c more today!"
Burger King

VERDICT: Burger King costs more today — especially if you want the good 'ol Croissan'wich.

Croissan'wich cost

Up next...Taco Bell! As you can see on this old receipt, these items were purchased on May 18, 1999.

Taco Bell receipt
u/pilot-37 / Via reddit.com

In 1999, a Chili Cheese Burrito cost 99¢, which is the equivalent of $1.76 now. Today, it costs $2.59.

"83c more today!"

In 1999, a taco cost 69¢, which is the equivalent of $1.23 now. Today, a soft or crunchy taco costs $1.69.

"Costs 46c more!"

In 1999, a 16-ounce small Pepsi cost 89¢, which is the equivalent of $1.58 now. Today, it costs $1.99.

"Costs 41c more"

VERDICT: Eating that "fourth meal" has gotten a WHOLE lot pricier than it used to be.

Chili Cheese Burrito price

Lastly, let's take a look at Wendy's! This menu was photographed in Chicago on January 30, 2004.

Wendy's menu
Scott Olson / Getty Images

In 2004, the Big Bacon Classic cost $2.79, which is the equivalent of $4.38 now. Today, it's $6.99.

"Costs $2.61 more!"

In 2004, the Grilled Chicken Sandwich was $2.89, which is the equivalent of $4.53 today. Today, it's $5.99.

"$1.46 more today!"

In 2004, a medium French Fries was 99¢, which is the equivalent of $1.55 now. Today, it is $3.29.

"$1.74 more today!"

VERDICT: Some of these cost almost 40% more than they used to! Yikes! Wendy's? More like when deez prices get so out of control?!

Big Bacon Classic price

In conclusion, this is the answer to my question about whether fast food costs more than it used to:

20th Century Fox