Inside the San Francisco KFC-Taco Bell combo restaurant on Polk Street, there are no tables, chairs or restroom. They were removed years ago, according to Lower Nob Hill resident Candy Huff.
But while amenities are sparse at the fast food joint, prices are up, and not just in the Tenderloin.
Huff, who often visits the Polk Street restaurant, said she remembers prices increasing about three months ago.
“It’s like 10 bucks for a chicken sandwich with fries,” Huff said. “It’s outrageous.”
Huff said fast-food restaurants are important for the Tenderloin community because many of them accept CalFresh food stamp benefits, and also because homeless people need affordable cooked meals as they don’t have kitchens or easy ways to store food.
Huff’s partner, Pete Barth, said when he added the chicken burrito and drink he ordered to Huff’s sandwich, fries and drink the total cost was $18. He figures it would have been a lot cheaper in his home city of Cincinnati, although he was last there in 2018.
“I think this all would have cost like 10 bucks back home,” Barth said.
A chicken sandwich combo at a KFC location in Cincinnati costs $5.99, according to PriceListo.
Fast food prices spiked around 13% nationwide between 2021 and 2022, according to PriceListo data. Fast food is also growing in popularity, with sales jumping 5.75% in the second quarter of 2023 compared with the same quarter last year, according to company earnings reports for 43 major restaurant chains analyzed by the Washington Post in August. Sit-down restaurants, meanwhile, saw just 2.38% in sales growth.
At San Francisco’s Carl’s Jr. in Union Square, many of the customers are homeless or lower-income and spend their food stamps there, staff said, who were not authorized to speak with the press and spoke on the condition of anonymity.
One worker said prices increased between 4% and 5% last year.
A customer, while eating a double cheeseburger, said he felt the prices have gone up a lot more. Showing The Standard his receipt, homeless man Martin Sandoval said the meal cost him over $20 on Friday but cost around $15 a year ago.
“I can’t come here too often,” Sandoval said.
Carlos Lopez also said he spends about $20 each time he comes to Carl’s Jr., although he doesn’t pay with CalFresh.
“It’s pretty expensive,” Lopez said.
Other customers said they were willing to pay a premium for their fast food fix, seeing it as a consequence of inflation that inevitably hits the pocket of consumers.
“The workers gotta make a living, and it’s expensive in San Francisco,” said Dennis Fallon, who had ordered a $13 three-piece chicken tender combo meal at a KFC near San Francisco’s Duboce Triangle neighborhood. “When I’m eating it, I feel like I’m getting my money’s worth.”
KFC, Taco Bell and Carl’s Jr. did not respond to requests for comment.
Here’s how much popular items at well-known fast food chains currently cost in San Francisco, according to PriceListo.
Two of the most popular KFC menu items, the six-piece Kentucky Fried wings, and the eight-piece Family Fill Up box, go for $5.59 and $20.
At McDonald’s, a McChicken costs $3.79, and a Big Mac meal costs $11.89.
A Crunchwrap Supreme combo at Taco Bell costs $10, and a single order of Doritos Locos Tacos costs $3.35.
Chipotle told The Standard they have not raised prices anywhere in the U.S. in 2023. The franchisee sets
Subway and Burger King provide guidelines for pricing to their franchise holders, but ultimately, the pricing responsibility falls to the franchisee, both companies said.
Garrett Leahy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org