Survey: Affordability does not equal discounting

Despite a return to promoting value, with various versions of “McPick2,” a new consumer survey ranks McDonald’s only sixth on affordability among 12 major burger/sandwich chains. This a drop from its fifth-place ranking on the last survey, in 2014, conducted for investment firm RBC Capital markets. The surveyed companies included national competitors Burger King, Wendy’s and Sonic along with largely regional chains such as In-N-Out Burger and Culver’s.

The results challenged the idea that chains have to discount heavily to be seen as affordable, an approach McDonald’s Owner/Operators have been complaining about for years. In-N-Out and Chick-fil-A were ranked the top two most affordable chains — and also among the highest in average spend per visit. “Stable and compelling core menu prices seem to be working well” for those companies, rather than discounting and value advertising, according to RBC investment analyst David Palmer.

Palmer contends that moves to improve the perception of McDonald’s food quality – such as cage-free eggs and antibiotic free chicken – “will be a multi-year journey with slow improvement in perception rather than a quick and dramatic fix.”