The City Where You'll Pay The Most For A Fast Food Burger Combo In 2022

There are three great appeals to fast food — speedy service, low prices, and consistency — but we all know that in practice, things don't always go as planned. For one, a recent report suggests that fast food service is getting less friendly, which has a surprisingly direct impact on how quickly and accurately orders are completed. Additionally, research by MoneyGeek has revealed that the cost of a burger combo, the most ubiquitous menu item in the fast food world, can vary dramatically from city to city, with the most expensive metropolises charging more than double the prices of the cheapest region.

It might seem surprising coming from multinational chains like McDonald's and Burger King, but Restaurant Business Magazine explains that individual franchise locations establish their menu prices based on a variety of local factors, the most significant being the cost of labor. If you buy a Big Mac in a state where the hourly wage is $14 or above, you can expect to pay roughly 26% more than customers in states that have the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. The cost of real estate can also add to menu prices, and since many of the cities with the highest real estate costs also enforce a higher minimum wage, you end up with major price disparities by region. 

The most expensive cities to live in also have the most expensive fast food, so the cities that charge the most for a burger, fries, and drink probably won't surprise you.

West Coast living ain't cheap

MoneyGeek recently analyzed fast food prices in America's 50 largest cities and determined that San Francisco charges the most for a burger combo, with an average price of $15.30 to purchase a burger, fries, and a drink. As a whole, California is the last place you want to go for an affordable meal, as the Golden State is home to four out of the top 10 cities with the most expensive burger combos. Los Angeles holds the number two spot at $14.59 per combo, while Long Beach ranks in fourth place and Sacramento falls at number eight. New York City holds the third-place position, charging $14.22 for a combo.

These numbers largely reflect the overall cost of living in each city. According to a July 2022 report from the San Francisco Chronicle, the city by the bay is the most expensive place in the world for real estate developers. And Insider claimed that the median household income in San Francisco is 74% higher than the national average in 2019. Meanwhile, New York City ranks as the most expensive city for renters, according to Bloomberg

So, where can you find a cheap burger in this day and age? According to MoneyGeek's data, Tulsa, Oklahoma is the place to go for affordable fast food, averaging just $6.55 for a burger combo.