This is how the dollar menu dies

Michael Beausoleil
7 min readSep 15, 2023

Looking for a good deal? You probably won’t find it on a fast food dollar menu. That’s because true dollar menus with $1 items have essentially become a thing of the past.

Throughout the bulk of the 2000s and 2010s, $1 deals were a staple at fast food restaurants. Whether you were looking to get a cheap meal or you wanted to tack an extra item onto your order, this menu section has always been popular.

McDonalds wrappers under a $1 logo

Today, “dollar” menus have been replaced with “value” menus, and even those are scarce. The obvious assumption is that inflation is pushing prices beyond a dollar, but that’s only a small part of the problem. Before a dollar menu can go away, restaurants need to find a way to replace the traffic it brings into their stores.

Many chains are trying to kill off their dollar menus, and we may be reaching a point where their final days are upon us.

The rise of the dollar menu

When most people think of a dollar menu, their minds likely go to McDonald’s. The chain formally introduced its “Dollar Menu” in 2002, but prices would start to climb. The fast food giant would then move in a more value-oriented direction, with its last iteration in 2018. If you’re lucky enough, you might still find a location that participates in the redundantly named “$1 $2 $3 Dollar Menu.”

This timeline makes McDonald’s late to the trend. In fact, Wendy’s is considered the trailblazer. Its “Super Value Menu” launched in 1989 and featured nine items priced at 99 cents. Nearly a decade later, Burger King launched its “Value Menu” that offered fan-favorite items for 99 cents.

Taco Bell promo for 59, 79, and 99 cent items.
A 1989 Taco Bell Value commercial

While Wendy’s often gets credit, Taco Bell’s value menu efforts date back even further. However, the brand focused on low prices, with some items being priced at 59 cents. When crafting these deals, the company had to strike a balance between popularity and profitability.

These are just some of the biggest names in the fast food market, but that makes them influential. When they have deals, the other chains take notice, but when the deals start drying up, smaller…

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Michael Beausoleil

User Analytics | Digital & Brand Marketing | Productivity … hoping to explore topics that interest me and find others with similar passions