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Too much for a cheeseburger? Breaking down rising fast food prices

Most of us have had to deal with busy weeknights when ordering fast food might make more sense, and national drive-thru chains are designed to save the consumer time and money. But the latest skyrocketing of fast food prices is now taking a bigger hit on the wallet.

Data from the Department of Labor shows that headline inflation has increased by 33%, meaning the average price of all the goods and services we pay for has increased by a third in a decade. Meanwhile, the “limited service restaurants” index, which contains data on fast food places, increased 47% in that same period.

However, this increase in average prices is masking much larger increases in an important item that Americans regularly interact with at fast food chains: the cheeseburger combo meal.

Using a combination of the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine and fastfoodmenuprices.com, Scripps News Phoenix collected data on the price of the top cheeseburger combo meal at four national chains and one regional fast food chain, then drove to each of these restaurants and ordered one to get today’s prices.

Since McDonald’s Big Mac is so well-known that economists created a Big Mac index to compare the cost of living in different countries, it was used as a staple combo meal. Today, the price of the Big Mac combo has increased by approximately 84% compared to 2014.

While this price increase has nearly doubled in just a decade, it is lower than the Big Mac equivalent from competing chains. Prices at Wendy’s, Burger King and Jack in the Box were around a 100% increase.

Regional chain In-N-Out had the smallest price increase of 55%, slightly above the overall 47% increase in fast food inflation. The Double-Double combo was the most expensive of the combos in 2014, but now it is the cheapest.

As prices increase in fast food restaurants, they begin to compete with other types of restaurants.

Chili’s offers a “You Pick Three” burger combo for $10.99. Meanwhile, the Burger King Whopper with cheese is priced at $11.99.

This story was originally published by Garrett Archer on Scripps Phoenix News.

Note: Historical price data was collected by putting fastfoodmenuprices.com in the Internet Archive Wayback Machine. Current prices were collected from drive-thru restaurants in Phoenix.

FastfoodMenuPrices.com is not an average and most price data collected varies by location and restaurant.

Inflation data was obtained from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.