Fast Food Dollar Menus: Where’s the Value?

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Let me say up front that I am a fast food junkie. It’s quick and convenient and because of my personal situation at home which includes a non-working oven with a stove top of only one usable burner, fast food is just the way to go much of the time. Still, with the toughening of the economy and the raising of restaurant prices, I began cutting down months ago.

Whereas I used to go four or five times a week (and often more), now I’m there just once or twice weekly, if that. When I do go, oftentimes, I now order from the dollar/value menus. Is there a difference? Most certainly.

My favorite meal has traditionally been a bacon cheeseburger with fries and a soft drink. At Wendy’s that began around the $4.00 range and has worked its way up in a period of about eighteen months to the vicinity of $5.35. I can’t afford that. Still, that’s cheaper than Burger King, where a whopper my way is about $7.55 for the medium size (a dollar less for the small size). It’s out of hand and out of my budget, which is why I’ve started to look at the value pricing.

The bad thing about value pricing is that while I’m paying less, I’m getting less. The Wendy’s Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger is a small patty with a thin slab of cheese and one piece of bacon. It has lettuce and tomato on it. I had it just today, and it was dry and lacking in taste.

Recently, I had Burger King’s version of the same thing. Burger wise, it’s about the same size; maybe a tad thicker. It comes with pickle and mustard, but no tomato and lettuce. It also costs fifty cents more than the Wendy’s version. Taste wise, Burger King gets the nod, but I don’t know if that fifty cents is really worth it or not.

As for French fries, I actually believe that the value menu versions of them that I’ve had are sufficient. It gives me that salty greasy taste I crave in the right amount. I’m satisfied with it from both of the food chains mentioned above.
I actually like the Kentucky Fried Chicken dollar menu the best. It’s fairly new, but one of their snackers is filling. Two snackers for two dollars can easily get a person through to dinnertime, or whatever the next meal is. Their corn dog nuggets are great, too, and six of those equal a hot dog, so that works.

The dollar menus are meant to entice the consumers, but whether or not they really help us to achieve anything or not, I’m not certain. A smaller portion may be healthier, but do we end up snacking more because we get hungry again quicker? Not only that, but the dollar menus now aren’t strictly dollars, as in the aforementioned Burger King Bacon Cheeseburger that sales for $1.49. Some of the Kentucky Fried Chicken items on its value menu are up to three dollars.

I’m not sure I would equate three dollars to a value, even in these times. When it cost me $4.55 for a value meal of a small burger, fries, and drink, that’s ot that much of a value. One more buck (or less), and I can have the full size and a more satisfied feeling of having eaten something.

While my finances are driving me to consider the dollar menus as an option, so far I’m just not sold. My early experiences with it haven’t been that promising, not when I end up eating again sooner than I would otherwise. In many ways, the value menus sound like a gimmick to attract the consumer. In the end, though, the consumers may be the losers in the deal.

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