Does the same fast-food meal cost more at different Houston locations?

HOUSTON – If you frequent the same place to eat at least a couple of times a week, you become familiar with prices on the items you typically order. But drive just a couple of blocks and the very same chain may charge you more or less for the same meal.

Consumer expert Amy Davis wanted to know why. She updated the Houston fast-food price survey she originally did 4 years ago to find out which fast-food locations charge the least and which charge the most. 

You know what you like to order; and in Houston, we're ordering fast food a lot. On average we go through a drive through 18 times a month. 

Davis ordered a Big Mac Meal at five different McDonald's locations; and she was charged four different amounts. The cheapest location was on Fry Road at the Grand Parkway for $5.89. The most expensive was on Hammerly in Spring Branch that charged 50 cents more for $6.39.

Those locations were several miles apart; but check this out: The Jimmy John's on the Southwest Freeway at Hillcroft charges $7.75 for a Pepe combo meal.

Just one exit south, another Jimmy John's charges $8.50. That's 75 cents more. Employees tell us both locations are owned by the same guy.

"Ultimately, it's up to the franchisee in terms of the pricing decision," said franchise consultant Stephen Maeker.

Maeker says owners have some leeway from the parent companies to adjust prices as they need.

"The two key costs that are going drive price is going be the occupancy cost and the lease cost," he explained.

Just like our survey 4 years ago, we didn't find any pricing differences at Chik-fil-a locations. Wendy's also posted the same consistent prices at each store we checked. What we didn't find, was any pattern that seemed to show prices are always higher on one side of town than another. It varies. And it's not something franchisees like to talk about. We reached out to owners at Jimmy Johns and McDonald's. No one would talk with us about this.

McDonald’s emailed the following statement:

“As independent McDonald’s owner/operators, we set the menu prices at the restaurants we operate based on many different factors. If it’s an advertised product price point or promotion, participating restaurants honor the advertised price. At McDonald’s, we offer great value to our customers throughout Greater Houston.” - Matthew Kades, President, McDonald’s Owner/Operators Association of Greater Houston

Fast Food Survey Results

McDonald’s Big Mac Meal:

  • Fry Rd & Grand Parkway - $5.89
  • 29610 US Hwy 290, Cypress - $5.99
  • 3025 Ella Blvd - $5.99
  • 8010 South Gessner - $6.09
  • 10170 Hammerly - $6.39

Jimmy John’s Pepe Combo Meal:

  • 6001 Hilcroft - $7.75
  • 28901 Hwy 290 - $7.84
  • 3231 Southwest Fwy (Buffalo Speedway) - $8.15
  • I-10 & Mason Road - $8.50
  • 7459 Southwest Freeway (near Beechnut) - $8.50

Chick-fil-a Chicken Sandwich:

  • 5905 FM 2920, Spring - $3.09
  • Bellaire & Grand Parkway - $3.09
  • I-45 & El Dorado, Webster - $3.09
  • West Airport & Hwy 59 - $3.09
  • 10105 Broadway Street, Pearland - $3.09

Wendy’s No. 2 Double Cheeseburger Combo:

  • 8735 Spring Cypress - $7.39
  • 1484 Katy Fort Bend - $7.39
  • 6101 Hilcroft - $7.39

About the Author:

Passionate consumer advocate, mom of 3, addicted to coffee, hairspray and pastries.