At Burger King on Center Street in Auburn, prices for meals at the chain restaurant have increased faster than inflation, according to a comparison done by Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

LEWISTON — It’s not your imagination: the cost of eating out has been rising steadily this year, with inflation and continued supply chain issues driving most of the added cost.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index shows prices for food eaten away from home rose 8.5% in September over the same time last year. The chain raising its prices the most in the past year is Burger King, according to a comparison done by MoneyGeek of prices listed on GrubHub and The average price of a Burger King meal shot up 21% from $6.76 to $8.18, far above the Consumer Price Index, which rate is up in the high single digits for the same period.

Wendy’s is a close second at 18.9%, with an average meal rising from $8.61 to $10.25, Five Guys is up 13.5% and McDonald’s is up 11.3% more to buy a burger, fries and a soda, as reported by National Restaurant News.

In its Oct. 5 issue, the trade publication also asks how much is too much for consumers to bear, with the director of consulting services at Revenue Management Solutions Scott Foxworth estimating that when prices go up beyond the 10% to 13% range, traffic starts to severely decline. There is statistical evidence that is already happening, with Revenue Management Solutions reporting 45% of consumers are eating out less and ordering less expensive items or choosing lower cost restaurants than they normally do.

A sub is ready to be cut and delivered to a customer Sept. 8 at Jersey Mike’s Subs in Auburn. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

We checked prices at eight area fast-food locations for similar items or meal combinations, which include fries or chips and a drink. All the prices quoted here do not include 8% tax.

KFC had the lowest prices, with a chicken sandwich combo priced at $7.49. A three-piece chicken box with two sides and a drink is priced at $9.99


Subway had the better price on the 6-inch Italian sub at $7.69, but chips and a drink will cost you an additional $3.49. A Subway 6-inch Philly steak is $7.79.

Jersey Mike’s, which is new to the area, offers a 7-inch Philly steak at $9.45 and a classic 7-inch Italian sub is $9.65, add $3.29 for a bag of chips and a drink.

At Five Guys on Center Street in Auburn, a cheeseburger, small fries and a drink will cost you $16.57. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

McDonald’s edges Burger King out on signature sandwiches, with a Big Mac meal coming in at $9.59, while a BK Whopper medium meal is $9.99. Both chains include medium fries and a medium drink. Wendy’s Dave Combo, which is a single burger with cheese, fries and a drink, is $9.99, while a crispy chicken medium meal is priced at $9.49.

Five Guys, also a new addition to the fast-food scene, is by far the most pricey, primarily because all items are ordered a la carte, meaning no meal deals are offered. Its French fries are hand cut and fresh, not frozen, but an small order will set you back $4.19, a medium order is $5.49. A hamburger is $8.79 and a cheeseburger is $9.49. A cheeseburger, small fries and a drink costs $16.57.

Finally, Taco Bell offers a 3 Crunchy Tacos Supreme combo for $10.19 and comes with a large drink. The regular version of the combo is $8.39.

Some of the chains offer limited time deals at lower prices or value menus, but all of them have been cutting back those offerings. Kids prices tend to be slightly lower, but a dinner for four will still cost roughly $30 to $40.

McDonald’s on Center Street in Auburn is displaying Help Wanted ads on its sign. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

Staffing at most of these restaurants remains a problem and explains why they put a heavy priority on delivery, drive-thru and pick-up orders. A new seasonal report by Alignable, a small business network, shows the restaurant industry remains 500,000 employees short of pre-pandemic levels and the forecast for hiring in the industry for the approaching holiday season indicates only 17% of restaurants plan on hiring. That’s almost 40% less than last year.

All of this means fewer hours and/or days of operation, fewer employees and longer waits during rush times.

Wendy’s and McDonald’s on Center St in Auburn have seen their prices rise drastically, according to a comparison of prices by Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

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