Studies have repeatedly shown wage increases bring few job cuts and boost local economies.

by Mark Kreidler, Capital & Main

The past decade has seen some of the most astounding price hikes and profit taking in the rich history of the major U.S. fast food companies. The numbers don’t lie.

Between 2014 and 2023, the price of all goods and services purchased by Americans rose 28.7%, according to federal data analyzed by the Roosevelt Institute, a New York-based think tank. But in the fast food sector, prices rose 46.8% during that same span. Profit markups in fast food also increased at a greater rate than at any time since the 1970s.

a car in front of mcdonalds with protest signs on it

As a result, “Fast food firms have developed an increasingly large buffer between costs and prices that has better positioned them to absorb higher operating costs now, more so than in the recent past,” the Roosevelt Institute’s researchers wrote in a recent report.

One example: In 2023, the report found, the 10 largest publicly traded fast food companies (think McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and Yum brands like Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, etc.) spent more than $6 billion of their profits to buy back shares of their own stock — making fewer shares available to the public and thus increasing the value of those shares for the companies.

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