In theory, fast-food is supposed to be good and also affordable. Something you can quickly grab to fit your tight schedule. So, in theory, you shouldn’t have to empty your pockets in order to enjoy a delicious fast-food meal. However, some restaurants don’t seem to have quite grasped that idea yet. So, here are 10 Fast Food Items That Are Seriously Overpriced.
10. Chipotle’s Guacamole
Chipotle is mainly to thank for the way we now picture fast-casual food in America. The high-quality ingredients and unique menu items have put this Tex-Mex giant ahead in the race. However, as good as it may be, certain add-ons just don’t make sense for a fast-food chain. Like Guacamole. Everyone knows that guac is extra – and not a cheap one, either. Some people will argue that a Chipotle meal is not complete without adding the creamy, tasty guacamole and that it’s totally worth the extra bucks. Others will say that there is no way smashed avocados are worth that much. It all depends on your convictions, really. In fancy, sit-down restaurants, sure, you can charge us extra, but at a fast-food place? There are always certain limits. At Chipotle, a serving of guacamole on a burrito costs them 52 cents – which sounds pretty respectable. But, in reality, you pay around $2 for a teeny, tiny spoonful of guacamole – which equates to a 285% markup. Not a great deal if you’re trying to keep an eye on your budget. The main reason why Chipotle’s guacamole is so overpriced is because of the high cost of avocados and their growing popularity. In a way, we understand why it’s expensive, but it’s certainly not worth paying up to four times its original value. If you want to save some money, skip the guac and opt for the included toppings instead.
9. Flame-Grilled Burgers
There’s nothing more appetizing than a freshly grilled burger. You can practically taste the juiciness just by looking at it. Sadly though, as you all know, looks can sometimes be deceiving. As it turns out, the majority of fast-food chains that sell “flame-grilled” options are full of it. McDonald’s, Burger King, Taco Bell – just to name a few – all serve those enticing, marked meats that look like they just came off the grill. But if your meat has grill marks on it, it’s probably the complete opposite. Why? Because grill marks are usually fake and have been put there using dyes way before the beef or chicken was even defrosted. In fact, fast food meat with grill marks is the perfect indicator that it’s been mass-produced in a factory and has never even been in the presence of an open flame. Instead of being cooked on a grill – or even a pan, the meat is cooked with blasts of hot air, after soaking in a solution of salt, animal fat, preservative, and smoke flavoring – you know, to at least make it taste a little more real. So, next time you see a picture of a flame-grilled burger that just looks too decadent to be true, trust your gut, it probably is, and you’ll probably end up paying way more than necessary just for the illusion. Just stick to regular burgers or wraps, you won’t miss out on anything.
8. Starbucks’ Coffee
Whether you’re running late in the morning or you just have a serious addiction to coffee, Starbucks is the go-to spot for lots coffee lovers. As the biggest coffee chain in the world, there always seems to be a location conveniently nearby to satisfy any beverage craving you might have. However, with convenience and status also comes the not-always-reasonable prices. Coffee, in general, doesn’t cost that much to produce and transport. When you buy a bag at the grocery store, it’s not overly expensive, and yet, chains like Starbucks sell the stuff for exorbitant prices. How is that? Even when the price of the coffee beans drops, Starbucks just keeps on increasing their prices. And, despite taking a financial hit during the 2020 pandemic, Starbucks still managed to rake in $23.5 billion in revenue. Okay, yes, they have tons of unique and signature drinks that can’t be found anywhere else, but what about the regular stuff? A simple drink like a Latte can be marked up almost 3000 percent when compared to the cost of making the exact same drink at home. And for what? The “iconic” cup? The rush you get from going to a Starbucks? To look fancy? In any case, you pay for the brand more than you pay for the coffee. If you want a piece of advice, invest in a coffee machine and become your own barista – your wallet will thank you in the long run.
7. Fountain Soda
Getting a soda with your fast-food meal is one of the greatest, most simple joys in life. And you know what’s even better? The unlimited refill fast food fountains. You get to fill your giant cup over and over without dispensing one more penny – or so you thought. The reason you can refill your cup so much is that you already paid for those refills – you just didn’t realize it yet. There is practically no worse deal on the menu than fountain soda. According to Business Insider, there is a huge gap between how much the soda costs and how much we’re paying for it. The drinks might cost a fast-food place anywhere from 5 to 20 cents to serve, but usually, they charge up to $2. Even if you refilled your cup 10 times, you wouldn’t even come close to the actual cost. In fact, the cup is worth more than the soda itself, which is why some places will charge you even if you just want a cup of water. Restaurants apparently work on a 1,500 percent markup when they sell fountain drinks. On top of that, we all know how often the soda machines are cleaned, so it just doesn’t seem to be worth spending even one dime on a possibly dirty drink. Instead, why don’t you just get your own cans of soda and avoid the risk of overpaying and possible health risks?
6. Anything With Fish
In order to be truly delectable, fish products have to be fresh and authentic – they can’t be faked. Despite this very important rule, fast-food chains – not always the kings of freshness – still decided to include some items with fish on their menus. If you ever thought some of these menu offerings were a little fishy, then chances are, you were right, and it was passed off as something it wasn’t. Apparently, the fishing industry and food fraud go hand-in-hand when it comes to fast-food restaurants. According to Food Security, passing off certain fish species as more a desirable fish is more common than you might think. For example, fish like escolar can come up on menus as tuna, tilapia, or pangasius gets passed off as pacific cod, and king mackerel can be disguised as grouper. So, the tuna sub you thought you were getting, and paid a little extra to have, might not even be tuna at all. Studies have found that about 21% of fish tested don’t match up to their sales label. This means that the next time you order Culver’s North Atlantic Cod Sandwich or a Long John Silver Pacific Cod Combo, you might not be getting the quality fish you paid for. In the restaurants’ defense, though, some might not even know that they’ve been duped as seafood sellers engaging in such practice don’t really face any severe punishment. So, before risking paying too much for some imposter, wannabe fish, consider getting something else on the menu.
A lot of people like to make fun of salads, like comparing it to rabbit food, but that’s probably because they’ve never had a really good, tasty salad. In times when people are trying to make healthier food choices, fast-food salads seem like the perfect answer to everyone’s prayers – you still get to go out and eat at the same place as the rest of your friends, but you can get something a little better for you. On paper, it all sounds great. But in reality, you’re paying way too much for way too little. Sure, salads are obviously healthier than burgers – well, in some cases, at least – but they also cost about four times as much. According to studies, you can see a price difference of around 280 percent if you compare how much making a salad at home costs compared to any fast-food salad. Let’s take the side salad at Dairy Queen, for example. A tiny three-ounce side salad, with only a small serving of lettuce and questionable-looking vegetables, will cost you $5. For one minuscule cup – just imagine how much the main salad would be! Plus, most fast-food restaurants aren’t exactly the most generous when it comes to protein-based ingredients like meat, and you will need to pay an extra for it. The moral of the story is this; you would be better off preparing a salad at home than ordering one from a fast-food joint.
4. Panera’s Pasta
Pasta is one of the cheapest, most delicious, and comforting foods you can get. Since it started out as a peasant food, it makes sense that it would keep its affordable status. So, why would a seemingly cheap meal be sold for such exorbitant prices at Panera, then? You can score an entire box of pasta for as low as $1 if you go to the grocery store and the sauces are always pretty easy to make. Panera’s prices are a little different. Pasta dishes range from $8-$11, depending on what you order. If you want to get a bowl of its famous mac and cheese, get ready to invest a good 5 to 8 bucks, while technically, it should come in at about $2.77 per serving if you make it at home. But that’s not even the worst part of it all. According to a Panera manager from New Jersey, the beloved, overpriced mac and cheese is not even made fresh in-house – it arrives frozen. Each day, the staff needs to “re-thermalize” the bags. This little secret was exposed when a Panera Bread worker shared the culinary secret in a TikTok that went viral overnight. Not only are you paying too much for a bowl of pasta, but the pasta isn’t even remotely worth it. Here’s a little tip, stop overpaying for small, frozen portions of pasta and make your own!
3. Papa John’s Veggie Pizza
Speaking of cheap, delicious, and comforting food, pizza is also part of this family. In general, pizza does not cost a lot to make. Making one at home can save you a ton of cash – you can make the dough out of inexpensive yeast, flour, and water; plus, tomatoes and cheese aren’t exactly on the overly pricey side, either. Add a few meat toppings and, voila! We say to make pizza at home because pizza joints tend to overcharge you – a lot. You see, the average standard takeout pizza has a true cost of around $2 bucks, and yet, most pies are sold for over $14. This is equivalent to a whopping 636 percent markup. The real takeaway comes from the insane price they charge for the toppings – especially at Papa John’s. Obviously, the more toppings you add, the pricier your pie gets, but is a handful of vegetables really worth that much extra? Not only is Papa John’s is one of the most expensive pizza chains around, they also serve up the most expensive veggie pizza. If you consider that the vegetables added to your pizza typically see a markup of 525 percent, you’ll see exactly why this is one of the most expensive options you can get your hands on. Compared to many other pizza giants like Domino’s and Little Caesars, Papa John’s wins the crown for the most expensive veggie pizza. Trying to eat healthier really is harder than it looks!
2. Five Guys’ Burgers
Finding burgers at fast-food restaurants isn’t hard – it’s finding the right one that’s more arduous. But, once you’ve found “the one,” you tend to stop caring so much about the price tag, and you would be willing to pay just about anything to get it again. This is where the “overpriced menu items” problem begins. Just because something tastes like heaven on earth to you, it doesn’t mean that you need to feel ripped-off – and “rip-off” is a term used a lot by people to describe their experience at Five Guys. Around since the 1980s, Five Guys serves some delicious burgers – no doubt about it – with everything made fresh to order, never frozen. You can put as many toppings as you want, with no extra charge. While this gets them bonus points, many people have complained about the ridiculously high price of the burgers. A regular burger will usually cost between 6$ to $8, depending on the location – and that doesn’t include anything else. If you want the burger, fries, and a drink, your final bill will be around $18. That’s almost 20 bucks for only three items – at a fast-food place. Now, it’s true that fast-food chains, in general, don’t always offer the same level of freshness; there are still some standards to respect to be qualified as “fast-food.” At this point, Five Guys is more like a fancy burger joint than a fast-food place.
1. Panda Express
When you’re in the mood for some delicious Chinese-American food, there are many fast-food joints you can go to grab a quick fix, but Panda Express just seems to be the most obvious choice. Whether you want some Pad Thai or General Tao Chicken, they’ve got everything on the menu you could possibly need. But, just because they have everything doesn’t mean they have everything at the best price possible. For instance, if you’re a fan of fried rice, you’re not getting the best bang for your buck if you order it from Panda Express. A typical fried rice order at Panda Express goes for just under $8 bucks. However, if you make the exact same dish at home, it would total up to a mere 49 cents per cup. That’s not a tiny difference we’re talking about here; it’s a total rip-off. And it’s not like the portions are huge, either. Anyone who decides to get an order of fried rice at the restaurant is guaranteed to overpay. Maybe try making the dish at home – you’ll even have enough left over for another meal – at a fraction of the cost. Ok, it might not be exactly the same, but with practice maybe your recipe will be become even better – then you can open your own restaurant.