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Fast-Food Sees Nearly $2 Price Surge as California Implements $20 Minimum Wage

Not all fast-food chains in California have adjusted their menu prices in response to the new legislation.
Cover Image Source: Three fast-food franchises—Dunkin' Donuts, Baskin Robbins, and Subway | Getty Images | Photo by Robert Alexander
Cover Image Source: Three fast-food franchises—Dunkin' Donuts, Baskin Robbins, and Subway | Getty Images | Photo by Robert Alexander

California, known for its progressive policies, passed a new law mandating a $20 minimum wage for fast-food workers. It has come into effect, leaving consumers and businesses grappling with the consequences. The repercussions of this legislation are palpable, particularly in the realm of fast-food pricing, with menu items experiencing a notable surge in costs.

Image Source: Pexels|Photo by Luis Rosero
Image Source: Pexels | Photo by Luis Rosero

The implementation of the $20 minimum wage law has sparked a wave of price adjustments across various fast-food chains in the state. Recently, The New York Post conducted a survey in Los Angeles, revealing a variety of responses from different establishments. Among these, Burger King emerged as one of the chains with the most significant price hikes.

A Texas-style Double Whopper meal that was priced at $15.09 before the law's enactment witnessed an increase of $1.80, costing $16.89 by April 1. Similarly, meals at the Big Fish Restaurant experienced price escalations, jumping from $7.49 to $11.49. Moreover, items worth 25 cents now cost $1.

Kevin Hart's Hart House, a renowned fast-food establishment, also adjusted its prices, with items like large fries seeing a significant uptick from $4.49 to $5.99. Milkshakes, previously priced at $1.00 regardless of size, now cost an additional 50 cents.

Image Source: Ja Kubislav/Pexels
Image Source: Photo by Ja Kubislav | Pexels

Consumers have had mixed reactions to these price changes. While some patrons perceive the increases as nominal and justifiable, others express discontent, lamenting the ripple effects of rising costs across the board.

While dining at In-N-Out, one customer remarked that the price increments seemed reasonable. "It’s such a nominal increase. It seems like a reasonable amount," they said. Conversely, another individual voiced dissatisfaction at Burger King, highlighting concerns about the broader impact of escalating prices.

"To be honest, I don’t like it, because then everything else goes up. These people have to make a living one way or another, but then [the restaurants] have to up their prices," they remarked.

Cover Image Source: Pexels | Magda Ehlers
Image Source: Pexels | Photo by Magda Ehlers

Interestingly, not all fast-food chains in California have immediately adjusted their menu prices in response to the new legislation. Establishments like Chick-fil-A, Wendy’s, and McDonald’s have maintained their pricing for now.

Scott Rodrick, a McDonald’s franchise owner in Northern California, disclosed that he had proactively raised prices by 5% to 7% over the past three months in anticipation of the wage hike, underscoring the strategic measures taken by businesses to adapt to the changing economic landscape.

"As a business owner, when you’re dealing with this kind of extraordinary overnight change, you know, a 25% increase in wages, (no) stone has to remain unturned," he expressed.


The $20 minimum wage law, championed by Democrats in the state Legislature and affecting over 500,000 fast-food workers, represents a significant shift in labor standards. Targeting restaurants with limited or no table service that are part of national chains with at least 60 locations nationwide, the legislation aims to uplift workers by ensuring a more equitable wage.

However, the swift and substantial increase in labor costs presents challenges for businesses, necessitating adjustments in pricing and operational strategies to maintain viability in the face of evolving economic dynamics.