McDonald’s USA president talks $5 meal deals: Customers are ‘really stretched’

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McDonald’s USA president Joe Erlinger assured customers on Tuesday that he understands their concerns over inflated prices.

Erlinger appeared on NBC’s “Today” show to promote the start of the fast food chain’s $5 value meal deal. With the deal, customers will get their pick of one of two sandwich options — a McDouble or a McChicken — plus small fries, four-piece McNuggets and a small soda. 

He responded to whether customers “forced [his] hand” to make the deal after being “fed up” with rising costs.

“I’ve zigzagged the country. I’ve been in our restaurants. I’ve sat in focus groups. Customers are telling us they’re really stretched,” he said. “They felt the stress of the inflation over the last few years.”

MCDONALD’S, ITS RIVALS OFFER $5 MEAL DEALS TO LURE BACK BUDGET-CONSCIOUS CONSUMERS. WILL THE PLAN WORK?

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Erlinger continued: “So this is a great opportunity for McDonald’s to bring them value. I know we’re talking about these as the fast food wars. I think of them as value and affordability wars, because that’s what customers want.” 

He was also pressed about complaints against McDonald’s prices after a viral social media photo showed a Connecticut stop charging about $18 for a Big Mac meal.

“That is the exception, not the rule,” Erlinger said. “But you’re right. There is this perception broadly about fast food prices having gone up. I did write this open letter to sort of take some of the myths out of the marketplace.” 

He added: “But we are, obviously, really committed to value. I think that the $5 price point and continuing to lean in to value and affordability, making this really the summer of value at McDonald’s, obviously, will change that perception.”

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Erlinger previously pushed back on what he called “poorly sourced reports that McDonald’s has raised prices significantly beyond inflationary rates” in May. He called them “inaccurate,” though he admitted that prices have increased in the past few years.

He also called out accusations that the company is guilty of “price gouging.”

MCDONALD’S CEO SAYS FAST FOOD CHAIN WILL FOCUS ON AFFORDABILITY AMID OUTRAGE OVER MENU HIKES

“McDonald’s overall, five-year price increases are closely connected to the increase of costs to run restaurants, which have gone up. This includes increases in restaurant crew salaries (up ~40% since 2019, from data accessible) and food/paper costs, also known as ‘cost of goods’ (up ~35% since 2019),” a company fact-sheet stated.

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It added: “Average price increases at McDonald’s are within the range of other quick service restaurant price increases over the past five years. Restaurant margins are largely the same today as they were in 2019, which is the opposite of so-called ‘gouging.’”

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The fact-sheet also reported that the average cost of a Big Mac rose from $4.39 in 2019 to $5.29 in 2024, a 21% increase. However, Erlinger said franchisees are ultimately responsible for setting their menu prices.

FOX Business’ Aislinn Murphy contributed to this article. 

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