I compared McDonald’s cheapest burger with its most expensive, and the difference was staggering

To see how different McDonald's offerings are at the top and bottom ends of its menu, I compared its cheapest burger with its most expensive burger.

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To see how different McDonald’s offerings are at the top and bottom ends of its menu, I compared its cheapest burger with its most expensive burger.
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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

  • Value is one of the biggest reasons people often eat at McDonald’s.
  • However, McDonald’s recently did away with its value menu, replacing it with frequent deals. The chain has also made changes to appeal to higher-end customers, such as upgrading its beef and rolling out delivery.
  • With increasing wealth inequality in America, it seems like McDonald’s is trying to appeal to both budget diners and the delivery crowd.
  • I compared the cheapest burger at McDonald’s with the most expensive burger, and the differences revealed how much value McDonald’s is really providing.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Value is usually one of the top reasons people eat at McDonald’s. But that’s not always the case.

The gap between America’s haves and have nots is wider than ever. The middle class is shrinking, and this means that shopping and dining trends go two ways: budget, or luxury.

And McDonald’s is one of the many chains that is trying to adapt to this new reality. In spring 2019, it did away with its beloved Dollar Menu. Then in summer 2019, it doubled down on deals to appeal to budget diners.

Read more: These chains offer the best value in fast food, according to customers

Meanwhile, the chain has made big changes to appeal to richer Americans, most notably by switching to fresh beef and rolling out delivery services.

But can one chain really cater to both sides of the economic spectrum?

To see how different McDonald’s offerings are at the top and bottom ends of its menu, I compared its cheapest burger with its most expensive burger, and what I found was telling.


The cheapest item on McDonald’s menu is the hamburger, which cost $1.69 at my local McDonald’s. The most expensive item is the Double Quarter Pounder with bacon and cheese, at $8.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

These sandwiches look like they’re from entirely different restaurants. The hamburger contains 250 calories, while the Double Quarter Pounder has 820.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

Everything about the sandwich, from the bun to the beef, was different. The only elements they had in common were their pickles, ketchup, and mustard.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

According to the McDonald’s website, the hamburger is made with a regular bun, McDonald’s traditional frozen beef patty, ketchup, pickle slices, onions, and mustard. It has been a menu mainstay for years.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

I guess technically there were multiple onion bits on this burger.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

But all in all, it was more bun than burger.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

Read more: I ate the cheapest cheeseburgers from McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and Burger King. Wendy’s was best by a slice.


And yet the meat was the star of the show. The bun itself was bland and dry.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

But supported by meager yet effective condiments, the meat managed to make the hamburger more palatable.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

It is by no means an appealing or satisfying option, but it certainly is the cheapest one. You would need at least two of these to make a filling meal, and the majority of that meal would be bread.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

The Double Quarter Pounder with bacon and cheese is made with two quarter-pound fresh beef patties, a bun, two slices of American cheese, bacon, ketchup, pickle slices, onions, and mustard. It was made a permanent addition to the menu in March after McDonald’s bacon-focused promotion that began in January ended.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

The beef was thick and colorful, while the bun was shiny and round, with a photogenic splash of sesame seeds. On the outside, this sandwich looked quite different.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

Read more: I tried the signature burgers from 5 major fast-food chains, and the winner was obvious


However, aside from a few strips of bacon and larger onions, this burger had the same condiments as its junior partner: ketchup, pickles, mustard.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

With two quarter-pound patties, this burger weighs in at roughly half a pound of beef when uncooked. It’s more than a large meal for the average American.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

This sandwich is a lot of meat — and better, juicier meat. It was greasy and packed with protein and fat.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

The sesame-seed bun was also a step up, and the bacon added an extra burst of flavor.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

Is it worth paying nearly four times the cost of a hamburger? It is if you can afford it.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

That said, it’s still a McDonald’s burger. Sliced onions do not make it a gourmet burger.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

But it’s clear that what McDonald’s offers its most budget-oriented customers is nothing like what it offers customers who are willing to dish out.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

With the elimination of its Dollar Menu, McDonald’s has made options more limited and less satisfying for its customers seeking value.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

There are increasingly two kinds of Americas and two kinds of McDonald’s burgers: the value-menu burger, and the deluxe burger delivered to your door.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider