How Fast Food Prices Have Changed In The Last 50 Years

If you've been around enough to remember when bell bottoms were a thing the first time around — aka the 1970s — you might also think that fast food prices aren't what they used to be. And thanks to factors like inflation, you'd be correct. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says when compared to prices from the 1970s, prices were just under 563 percent lower than they are now (via In 2013 Dollars). 

This means $100 in 1970 could have bought the same amount of goods as around $663 can today, and in the last 50 years, inflation has gone as low as -0.36 percent in 2009, to a high of 11.35 percent in 1979 — which means the U.S. has seen an average inflation rate of 3.85 percent over this 50-year period. All that inflation adds up, and it's reflected on the menus of your favorite fast food joints.

But there are other factors that can affect the cost of items on a fast food menu. These factors include labor costs (fast food workers receive at least the national minimum wage); fuel prices that affect transportation costs; and the prices of key ingredients — particularly if there are any increases and if these jumps go on for an extended period of time. All these factors have had a tremendous impact on fast food, to say the least.

How prices for burgers and chicken have changed since 1970s

With all those factors in play, this is how prices at just two fast restaurants have drastically changed since 1970:

McDonald's in 1970 (via Throwbacks): 

Quarter Pounder with Cheese, $0.70; Quarter Pounder, $0.60; Big Mac, $0.65; Filet-O-Fish $0.48; French Fries $0.26

McDonald's today (via Menu and Price):

Quarter Pounder with Cheese (option is for cheese and bacon), $5.25; Quarter Pounder, $4.40; Big Mac, $4.35; Filet-O-Fish $4.05; French Fries $2.20 (size is unspecified)

Kentucky Fried Chicken in 1970 (via Pinterest):

Regular dinner box (with 3 pieces of chicken, cole slaw, mashed potato, gravy, and a hot roll), $1.35; Jumbo dinner box (with 5 pieces of chicken, cole slaw, mashed potato, gravy, and a hot roll), $2.15; Family bucket (with 15 pieces of chicken, a pint of gravy, 6 hot rolls), $4.90; Thrift box (9 pieces of chicken), $2.95 and The Barrel (21 pieces of chicken) $5.95

KFC today (via Menu with Price). Because menu items have changed slightly, we are listing items that are closest to the original. 

3-piece Meal, $7.19 (dark meat) or $8.49 (white meat); 4-piece Meal (dark meat) $8.99; 16-piece meal with 4 Large Sides and 8 Biscuits, $36.99; 8 pieces of chicken only, $13.99; 20 pieces of chicken only, $28.99