It’s not exactly breaking news that prices can vary by location. But did you ever notice by how much?

When we go to any national fast food chain, we know everything is going to be the same. The same consistent food taste, the same packaging, the same look and layout.

The one thing that’s not the same is the price. So many of these are franchise operations where they are locally, individually owned and operated but they must follow strict rules as far as menu offerings and protocol. Pricing however is another story.

Local market conditions, cost of labor and many other things can affect the price and not just state to state but even town to town. I recall driving cross country in my early 20s and stopping at a McDonald’s in Arizona in the middle of nowhere surrounded by vast expanses of desert.

Photo via Canva
Photo via Canva

Walking in there was a sign warning people not to be shocked when they saw prices dramatically higher than in other parts of the country. This was an area so remote they literally had to truck in water supplies. recently ran a story about how the same item at Dunkin could vary wildly in price depending on what NJ town you were.

Photo via New Bedofrd/Fall River
Photo via New Bedofrd/Fall River

They gave the example of how a medium hot coffee and frosted donut combined could range anywhere from $3.94 cheapest to $4.98 most expensive. If you ordered that every day that’s a difference of $380.

In fact, this can even occur in the same town. In Brick there are two Dunkin locations and at one a cup of coffee is 30 cents more than the other. Same for donuts, 30 cents higher.

You won’t escape location price swings by going to Starbucks either. They do it too, and the company cites everything from local utilities costs, local taxes and insurance, to the price of local real estate for the fluctuations.

One guy who noticed the price of a Big Mac at McDonald’s was all over the place depending on the state and zip code took it upon himself to make an app that gives you the price of a Big Mac at any McDonald’s location in the country. (I wish I had this much free time on my hands.)

He calls it McCheapest.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Sure, enough the most expensive I could find in the southwest was $7.59 in Tusayan, Arizona near the Grand Canyon. That’s the place I was talking about.

Using McCheapest here in New Jersey I’m seeing the most expensive Big Mac in the state priced at $7.89 in Paramus. One of the cheapest I’m seeing is in Little Egg Harbor for $4.79. Huge difference!

But when you want fast food are you going to drive out of your way for a few bucks? No, not with the price of gasoline. So what are you going to do?

What we always do in New Jersey.

Fuggetaboutit. That’s what.

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