Californians Are Feeling Ripped Off By Fast Food Restaurants And Opting To Take Their Money Elsewhere

Sharing is caring!

Many chain restaurants raised prices following California’s $20 minimum wage hike. Customers saw what the fast food chains were doing and took their business elsewhere. Here is where they eat instead.

One senior’s story

Image by gilmanshin/Depositphotos

Talking to The Wall Street Journal, a 79-year-old from San Diego explained that he enjoyed going to McDonald’s a few times a month. The retired entrepreneur shared that he felt ripped off after seeing that his favorite fast-food chain raised the prices of their burgers to $5.39. 

Choosing independent restaurants


The retiree opted for sit-down restaurants, where prices are half those in fast food chains. This may be a silver lining in a controversial wage hike in California that affected restaurants with at least 60 locations nationwide. However, independent businesses might have to take on higher wages to keep their staff.

The increase of around 10 percent 


Datassential analysis found that California’s fast food chains, including Mcdonald’s, Chick-fil-A, and Pizza Hut, raised their prices by around 10 percent from September 2023. In other states, the increase was around 5 percent. Kalinowski Equity Research found that since April 1, when the wages went up, fast food chains increased prices by 8 percent. 

Not everyone increased prices drastically 

Image by AVFC/Depositphotos

NBC Los Angeles reported that the price increase was most significant in Wendy’s, followed by Chipotle’s and Starbucks food. However, Taco Bell and Burger King customers now pay 3% and 2% more, respectively. Owners are obviously not happy with the wage hike.

More costumers spoke 

John Hanson Pye /

A Chipotle customer was disappointed that their favorite chain increased their prices, so they also wanted to switch to other eateries. Some claim they will eat out less, while others confirmed they would skip dining out altogether. Many Californians assume that the prices in fast food chains will continue growing. 

Another customer’s story

Image by jetcityimage2/Depositphotos

A therapist from Los Angeles noticed that his Chick-fil-A meal went from $16 to $20. He opted for a small taco place, where the prices remained $10. An Imperial Beach project manager also chose to dine in sit-down restaurants and told The Journal that he still eats out but chooses more carefully. 

Newsom is not worried about chain restaurants

Photo by Sheilaf2002 / Depositphotos

A spokesperson for California Governor Gavin Newsom did not directly address the increased prices. Instead, they were sure that restaurants could afford the $20 wages, which would go toward rent and food. Some workers have already confirmed that they are enjoying the new wages.

The downside

Illustration. Image by Shutterstock

The wage hike also brought a lot of distress since many employees were fired or had their hours cut. Some companies rolled out kiosks way before the wage hike, and many franchisee owners are looking in a similar direction. And while fast food chain owners are desperate, some small business owners shared words of wisdom.

A viable business model 


Andytown Coffee Roasters in San Francisco gave its workers $20 before the wage hike. The owner and CEO, Lauren Crabbe, told CNBC she was happy about the wage increase and suggested that the state target other industries, like retail. As for those who think they can’t afford it, she believes they need a viable business model.  

Bringing back workers 

Image by teamtime/Depositphotos

Daniel Zhao, the lead economist for career site Glassdoor, told CNBC that the wage hike can benefit all restaurant owners who always lack workers. He commented that the new bill could bring back workers who went to work for Amazon warehouse or as rideshare drivers. 

More money to spend


Zhao noted that people who earn more will spend more, positively affecting the economy. California is the fifth-largest economy in the world for the seventh straight year despite rising debt. Additionally, California’s contribution to the United States’ gross domestic product in 2023 was $3.23 trillion, making it the state with the highest GDP in the past year. 

Economic recovery


In recent years, the state suffered rising unemployment, growing fiscal strains, and population outflows. Many Californians think that the Governor should address the issues more candidly. The state’s shrinking population is also a significant issue, especially with increased housing costs driving the gap between the wealthy and the poor.

Top 3 U.S. States That Almost No One Leaves (And for Good Reason)


Top 3 U.S. States That Almost No One Leaves (And for Good Reason)

Kate Smith, a self-proclaimed word nerd who relishes the power of language to inform, entertain, and inspire. Kate's passion for sharing knowledge and sparking meaningful conversations fuels her every word.