A Basic Burger Ain’t Cheap Anymore!

When the golden arches of McDonalds welcomed their first customers to the newly franchised operation in Des Plaines, Illinois in 1955 a hamburger sold for 15 cents.  You could fancy it up with a slice of cheese and get a cheeseburger for 19 cents.  French fries and a coke were each a dime.

Times have changed and we’ve become a nation of fresh-seeking food snobs willing to pay upwards of $20 bucks just for a hamburger.  Houston’s Jodie Eisenhardt, author of the foodiehhouston blog, doesn’t see that as a bad thing.  “All of the research and market indicators show that more people are asking more questions about where their meat comes from,” she tells KTRH News.  “So you’ve seen a real growth trend in terms of these establishments that use higher quality beef.”

She referring to the influence of establishments like Smashburger, Five Guys, Shake Shack and Kenny and Ziggy’s, where a ‘fancy schmancy” burger like a Mike’s Meshuggenah that includes Maytag Blue Cheese, black label bacon, sautéed mushrooms, lettuce, tomatoes and crispy onion rings topped with blue cheese dressing on a molasses wheat bun will set you back $17.95.  “There’s always going to be a segment that wants something cheaper, but more and more often people want fresher, higher quality,” says Eisenhardt.  Many of the fast-food restaurants that have become trendy, including Five Guys, In-N-Out, and Shake Shack, have conspicuously never used frozen meat.

And we are apparently willing to pay for it.  The average cost of a hamburger lunch with fries and soft drink has risen 22% just over the past ten years. Last year market-leading McDonalds removed preservatives from chicken mcnuggets and removed high fructose corn syrup from their buns.  Bowing to the trend of fresher ingredients and better quality, they announced in March that by the middle of next year all Quarter Pounder with Cheese hamburgers will be made with fresh – not frozen – beef.  Cooked to order. E tu, McDonalds?

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