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The $1 McDonald’s menu is still here. But there’s no $1 items in it.

The dollar menu at McDonald’s has a long history, dating back to 2002. Closer to 2018, it disappeared entirely and was replaced in 2018 with $1, $2, $3 menu. These were affordable menus aimed at offering the most affordable items in one category. For example, for $1, you could get a sausage burrito, the McChicken, a cheeseburger, and any soft drink of any size.

No single item on the $1 menu costs $1. The cheapest items we could find included a soft drink and sweet tea for $1.29, a McDouble for $1.69, and a small fries for $2.29.

Rising prices at fast food restaurants across America scare consumers who were recently shocked by the $18 Big Mac. The reaction was so strong that even McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempczinski promised that the company would be more sensitive to the affordability of its items.

However, prices for different menu items can vary between states or cities and even within different restaurants in the same city. So, somewhere, a drink might cost $1.29, but we saw it for $1.49 at another restaurant. The same is true for the McDouble, my favorite burger, which is delicious and cheap. In Richmond, it was $2.29, one of the best deals on the market. In New York City on 8th Avenue, a McDouble is $3.49.

We checked about 20 McDonald’s in 9 U.S. cities and couldn’t find a single one where the drink cost precisely a dollar. This situation goes against what we saw a year ago, when the drink cost $1 at many McDonald’s nationwide in January and February 2023.

At the San Jose, CA, restaurant, the drink costs $1.29, and the McDouble costs $2.99. Many customers complain that the prices have become much higher than they were before. In comments on X and TikTok, people write that “now the dollar menu is a scam” and that “McDonald’s is using the old marketing even though it is no longer true.” If you look at the prices, they have indeed gone up, and in percentage terms, it is the dollar menu where the increase from $1 to $1.29 per drink actually means 29%.

One franchisee says, “The dollar menu has been the factor that has kept the prices of other items down. If they were going up, customers would switch to items off the dollar list.”

Franchisees have some leeway when it comes to price formation. This allows them to customize to the specifics of a particular location or better respond to customer demand. While prices have always varied from restaurant to restaurant, the difference is now becoming significantly pronounced, reaching 2x for some items.

But there is another way of looking at it. You can think of the $1 $2 $3 menu as a generic name that includes items from $1 to $3.99. Sure, there’s a trick to it, but it doesn’t sound so illogical. At least to some people, it seems that way.

Anyway, prices will probably never go back up again, so a $1 drink or McChicken is part of the story. Just forget about them.