A recent Reddit post uploaded to the site's r/TacoBell sub has pointed to some troubling news for fast food fans with a penchant for quick and easy Tex-Mex fare: the cheese bean and rice burrito, which has long been lauded as a filling low-cost fast food option, has purportedly shot up in price by more than double its previous retail rate
The user in question posted a screenshot of an online ordering page depicting the Taco Bell menu item as retailing for $2.49 along with a header that reads: "Heads up, but they increased the Cheesy Bean & Rice Burrito price by 250%"
And while the image still clearly depicts the menu item is going for $2.49, other users on the platform said that this was by no means a widespread change and that the cheesy bean and rice burrito is selling for less at other locations, indicating that the prices of the offering vary from area to area and Taco Bell restaurant to Taco Bell restaurant.
"That's just some locations. Some didn't increase at all, others increased but by much less, etc. It's $1.49 in my area," one Redditor wrote, which was echoed by another commenter who replied to the post and penned: "1.49 for me too. The chicken flatbread might be the best value for calories or protein."
Someone else posted that the cost of the item for them was a different price, too: "It’s 1.29 where I’m at. It really depends on your location"
"1.59$ in Nor Cal. Probably owned by a franchise the price increased due that. Check other locations near by," someone else remarked.
On Taco Bell's website, without inputting a specific location, the chain lists that the Cheesy Bean and Rice Burrito is selling for $1.19, around less than half than the screenshot image provided by the Redditor in their viral post about the price increase.
This was a price that was confirmed by someone else who scoped out Taco Bell prices in the Midwest: "1.19 in central Indiana"
Another Reddit user believes they have a pretty good idea as to what the root cause of the price increases are — independently run franchise decisions: "$1.99 where i’m at. location is franchise owned, when i worked there all dollar menu items were $1.29 before tax. idk what the limit franchise owners have from corporate re: price increases, but it’s not zero unfortunately"
Although the prices of the Taco Bell fast food item do indeed vary from area to area, posts like these have been popping up on various social media platforms. There was a father who recently went viral on TikTok who discussed his shock at seeing just how expensive it was for his family of four to "think outside the bun" — he couldn't believe he spent $53 at Taco Bell for four people to eat.
Food inflation has become a very real problem for many American families: the USDA has documented the staggering increase in the costs of both groceries and food-away-from home expenditures, with sharp increases that don't just correlate to the overall inflation rate which hit a 40-year-high in the United States — it actually surpassed it.
Tasting Table penned an article in November of 2023 that says fast food prices aren't increasing at the same rate of inflation in the United States, but that they've risen 6.2% in a single year alone, which is "nearly 200% quicker than the rate of inflation."
The outlet went on to state that fast food prices are "consistently outpacing prices in full-service restaurants (4.3%) and grocery stores (2.1%)," which means that there could be something to what the Taco Bell Dad stated in his video: that fast food establishments know their customers are willing to pay an up charge for their products and they don't have any issues pressing the matter to see just how much money they can get from their customers.
It could be that these price hikes may ultimately bite fast food companies in the behind, as the same article writes: "Unsurprisingly, many consumers feel that hitting the fast food drive-thru line isn't worth it anymore, and volume is dropping. Customer traffic slowed by 2.5% industry-wide in October 2023, which comes on top of another traffic dip of 4.2% in September."
But it doesn't look like businesses are all that upset about the dip, either, writing "It might seem confusing considering McDonald's, for instance, enjoyed an 8.1% increase in sales last quarter. However, the positive revenue trends were largely the result of price hikes."
The fast food industry as a result may ultimately be hurt from this trend in the long term, as customers have relied on establishments like Taco Bell, McDonald's, Wendy's, etc. for quick and inexpensive ready-to-eat meal options.
However, now that they've become associated with becoming prohibitively expensive, if consumer traffic dwindles and folks decide, en masse, that they no longer want to eat at fast food chains, or another Super Size Me flick collectively grosses out America, will the fast food industry be able to bounce back?
That's a question for the future, because as of now, it seems like there are tons of fast food restaurants and establishments that are more than happy to rake in the profits associated with their higher priced menus, Taco Bell included.