Don't Be Fooled by McDonald's Cutting Prices

October 18th 2015

Alex Mierjeski

In a bid to win over value-minded consumers, the nation's largest fast food chains are competing for the best deals in a high-value, low-price war. But while customers sit back and wait for the best value-proposition pitch, an important sector of the fast food industry stands to reap little to no benefits from the competition.

Quick service restaurants such as McDonald's, Wendy's, Burger King, and KFC have launched new deals in recent months, all touting $5-or-below price schemas for different menu combinations. But the value jousting also comes at a time when fast food and low wage workers have been more vocal than ever, calling for higher pay and more recognition both in the workplace and in the public's eye.


Related: McDonald's All-Day Breakfast Is a Disaster So Far

Earlier this month, Burger King and McDonald's worker Terrance Wise introduced President Barack Obama at a labor issues forum at the White House, where Wise described skipping meals out of necessity due to low pay at both of his service jobs, McClatchy reported.

The president described "common-sense principles" where American workers deserved more guarantees, including family support, adequate benefits, a safe work environment, childcare, education opportunities, and the freedom to join unions, according to McClatchy.

"While folks at the top did very well, ordinary workers were seeing their incomes flat-lining," Obama said of the increasing wage gap.

Restaurants say that lowering prices drives up consumer bases, but trying to revive deals like McDonald's' Dollar Menu, which was changed two years ago to include items that cost more than $1 thanks to lagging profitability, could prove challenging. Business Insider notes that the newer deals are slightly higher-priced than they were before since drastic discounts ate into companies' profits—generally around $4 or $5.

Either way, there's a stark reality underlying the very transparent scramble for profits: the workers preparing the almost criminally cheap food are being overlooked, with their calls for higher wages being effectively shut down by restaurants' angling to serve the lowest-priced food. One of the reasons quick service restaurants can still eek out a profit from dollar menu-type food prices are the low wages they pay employees. And one of the strongest indicators of this is the nearly $7 billion annual cost to taxpayers of public assistance programs used by families of fast food workers, according to a recent University of California Berkeley study.

RELATED: Is McDonald's Finally Screwed?

McDonald's and its ilk are not yet holding donation drives to help out its employees, though other low wage employers could provide a good example of how to balance keeping down costs and caring for employees, as Stephen Colbert noted in 2013: