McDonald’s has been on the front lines of much social chatter of late, as it often is. This time regarding how much price the brand has taken through inflationary pressure.

TheStreet recently measured some of the chain’s popular items against 2019 prices using archived menu pages from the website It claimed McDonald’s prices, on average, climbed 141.4 percent across some of its iconic offerings. Medium French Fries rose from $1.79 to $4.19; Big Mac’s upped 87.7 percent to $7.49 from $3.99; McChicken rose 201.6 percent to $3.89 from $1.29; 10 McNuggets 68.8 percent from $4.49 to $7.58; and cheeseburgers 215 percent from $1 to $3.

This report was hardly an outlier. The New York Post ran a headline: “McDonald’s customers rage after graph exposes menu prices have nearly tripled in a decade: ‘Bulls–t’”

That featured graph, based on a study by FinanceBuzz, said the cost of individual McDonald’s items surged over the past decade, with the McDouble up 168 percent to $3.19 (claiming the national average was $1.19 in 2014).

The Star Tribune reported the Big Mac went to $8.29 from $3.99 and the meal $12.19 from $5.99.

But the question is, how much of this was mere noise, or truly reflective of reality? McDonald’s is a 95 percent franchised system that doesn’t broad-stroke its pricing. So taking a location, or region even, and writing a national narrative doesn’t always line up.

McDonald’s said this to The Post: “As the report itself notes, pricing is set by individual franchisees and varies by restaurant. This is not an accurate representation of historical or current pricing at McDonald’s restaurants, and the 2024 average prices listed are significantly inflated.”

As FinanceBuzz acknowledged: “[It is] difficult to accurately source historical data to compare to the present” since “McDonald’s franchisees are given a high level of autonomy in setting menu prices for individual locations.”

Still, the graph went viral on Reddit and ended up on national media platforms.

McDonald’s, outside of retorts like the one it sent the Post, has mostly been quiet during the kickback. But on Wednesday that changed. USA president Joe Erlinger penned an open letter called, “Providing meaningful value to our fans, with a side of facts.”

Here’s the letter in full, addressed to “U.S. fans.”

“I still remember the excitement I felt as a kid when my parents turned into a McDonald’s. I think back to that almost every day in my job running McDonald’s USA (and to my mom’s love of McNuggets).

While I didn’t realize it then, it wasn’t just the great burgers and fries that made McDonald’s a destination for the Erlingers—it was knowing my parents could count on their local McDonald’s for a convenient, affordable meal for the whole family.

That’s just as important today. Americans across the country are making tough calls about where to spend their hard-earned money.

And while we’ve been working hard to make sure our fans have great reasons to visit us, it’s clear that we—together with our franchisees—must remain laser-focused on value and affordability.

It’s what our brand was built on, and we are committed to living up to that legacy—especially at a time when our customers need it most.

That’s not why I’m writing today, though.

Recently, we have seen viral social posts and poorly sourced reports that McDonald’s has raised prices significantly beyond inflationary rates. This is inaccurate. And for a brand that proudly serves nearly 90 percent of the U.S. population every year, we feel a responsibility to make sure the real facts are available.

I can tell you that it frustrates and worries me, and many of our franchisees, when I hear about an $18 Big Mac meal being sold—even if it was at one location in the U.S. out of more than 13,700. More worrying, though, is when people believe that this is the rule and not the exception, or when folks start to suggest that the prices of a Big Mac have risen 100 percent since 2019.

The average price of a Big Mac in the U.S. was $4.39 in 2019. Despite a global pandemic and historic rises in supply chain costs, wages and other inflationary pressures in the years that followed, the average cost is now $5.29. That’s an increase of 21 percent (not 100 percent).

Inflationary pressures have affected all sectors of the economy, including ours. Our franchisees (who own and operate more than 95 percent of all restaurants in the U.S.) set menu prices for their restaurants, which account for the increased costs of running their businesses. In doing so, they work hard to minimize the impact of price increases on our fans. This includes the everyday prices on our restaurant menu boards to special limited-time offers.

That’s why prices for many of our menu items have risen less than the rate of inflation—and remain well within the range of other quick service restaurants. It’s also why more than 90 percent of U.S. franchisees are offering meal bundles for $4 or less.

I fully expect the prices at your local McDonald’s to be an area of conversation and focus in the coming months. As it does, I hope you’ll see the programs we’re launching nationally and locally as meaningful to you. At the same time, I hope it’s helpful to see some of the common myths that I’ve encountered, and the facts that go along with them.

And because I can’t help myself, for the greatest way to unlock all the value we offer, be sure to download and use the McDonald’s app.”

McDonald’s is reportedly working toward a $5 meal deal as it looks to counter sluggish traffic from lower-income diners.

The chain’s U.S. same-store sales increased 2.5 percent during the first quarter thanks to average check growth, menu price increases, effective marketing campaigns featuring core menu items, and continued expansion of digital and delivery.

READ MORE: McDonald’s Preps for ‘Street-Fighting Mentality’ to Win Value-Seeking Guests

McDonald’s indicated a nationwide value platform was coming during its earnings call at the end of April. The burger giant plans to use its big marketing engine to advertise a deal available everywhere instead of “doing it in 50 different ways with local value,” CEO Chris Kempcinzksi told investors.

Fast Food, Finance, Menu Innovations, Story, McDonald's