- Monday, March 11, 2024

Normally I’d be busily pulling together a column on everything we learned from Super Tuesday, running through data from voters in the dozen-plus states who cast ballots to determine who will be the nominees for president from the Republican and Democratic parties.

Or I’d be penning a piece on the borefest that is the State of the Union address. But not this time around. Despite having 320 million people in the United States, we apparently we can’t come up with anyone better than a 77-year-old former reality TV show host and a clearly senile 81-year-old who can’t put together a coherent sentence.

So, it’ll be Donald Trump vs. Joe Biden again. Neither deserves to return to the White House — Mr. Trump because he’s been proved (in numerous courts of law) to be an awful human being and President Biden because he’s been proved (in the court of public opinion) to be incompetent (and, to be honest, an awful human being).

Thus, we’ll just move on and talk about something more important: What’s going on with the price of a burger?

“Five Guys prices are out of control,” one burger buyer, Wall Street Silver, wrote on Reddit last week in a post viewed by some 25 million users. “$24 for one person.”

That’s right: $24 for a bacon cheeseburger ($12.49), small fries ($5.19) and a regular soda ($2.89). With tax and a small tip (don’t get me started there, read my past column on how “tipping in America is out of control”), the total came to $24.10.

“Guess I was expecting about $12 to $15 per person for Five Guys. $22 (without tip) just seems to cross a line,” the user added in a follow-up post. “What is the right amount these days?”

Let me answer that: About $8. That’s $3.50 for the burger, $2 for fries, $2 for a soda, plus tax and a little tip.

The Reddit post drew 12,000 comments (NB Five Guys). “That’s not even factoring in how overrated they are,” one commenter wrote. And they are. It’s a decent burger — better than other fast food, but not by much.

“$10 should be able to get you a premium burger from a higher end place. Drink and fries plus $5,” the user wrote.

Other commenters jumped in, with one saying that “fast food becoming a luxury meal is a sign of the times,” with another saying “HAH!! This would be cheap in California!” And so true: A bacon cheeseburger from a Five Guys in Culver City, California, costs $14.39!

So hang on. I’ve been to 116 countries, all 50 states. I’ve eaten burgers everywhere (note: Don’t get one in Uganda). Conclusion: In-N-Out is the best. There, the price is $3.50 for a cheeseburger, $2.15 for an order of fries and $2.10 for a medium drink. That’s $7.75 before tax — less than one-third of the order at Five Guys, which is far inferior. And In-N-Out was founded by just two people.

The Five Guys post comes hard on the news that Wendy’s plans to install $20 million worth of digital menus so it can change prices whenever it wants. That morphed into reports that the mediocre burger chain would employ “surge pricing,” charging more when demand is higher.

Wendy’s says it won’t, but of course that’s what it’s going to do (you watch). Still, the kahunas at Wendy’s knew right away they had to kill the notion, so they declared that prices will go down only when demand is low, never up. And remember, this is all over a garbage frozen burger.

All of this comes as fast-food prices are skyrocketing. Finally, people are fed up. They’re even declaring that you can make a nice sandwich at home for a fraction of the price and realizing that maybe they’ll be better off not eating all that processed crap.

Let’s hope young people boycott fast food en masse. They don’t realize it now, but they have the power: Make the burger joints slash their prices or put them out of business.

That’s tough, sure, when you’re hungry and have no time, but you Generation Z and millennials and whatever else you guys call yourselves should just buckle down and make fast food pay.

Turn the tables on them. You’ll feel better.

• Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times. He can be reached at josephcurl@gmail.com and on X @josephcurl.

Correction: A previous version of the column incorrectly identified a fast-food restaurant that plans to install $20 million worth of digital menus. 

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