Despite the gradual shift amongst consumers towards more organic and healthier food options, the good old-fashioned meaty hamburger revels in a glorious moment of its own. People all over the world continue to eat and enjoy burgers in huge numbers. But, when it comes to fast-food items like burgers, fries, and shakes, the first name to pop in mind is McDonald’s.
While a handful of fast-food giants like McDonald’s are still dominating the fast-casual and fast-food dining sector, there has been an abundance of feisty upstarts in the industry to really test the status quo. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll be looking at the 11 best affordable alternatives for McDonald’s you can consider to see where the fast-food sector is really heading out to.
An Overview of McDonald’s
McDonald’s takes great pride in offering an incredible range of fast-food items like hamburgers and cheeseburgers, fries, thick and creamy milkshakes, and sundaes, and not to forget a spectacular breakfast menu. So naturally, the golden yellow arches as McDonald’s logo have to be one of the most easily identifiable corporate symbols worldwide.
The leading fast-food chain was founded in 1940 by two brothers, Maurice and Richard. Since then, McDonald’s has shaped and completely revolutionized the fast-food sector we have come to know of and profoundly love.
With time, the fast-food giant has further expanded into other categories like salads, smoothies, fruits, and fish. To date, Mcdonald’s serves approximately 69 million consumers daily. According to the McDonald’s Corporation official website, Mcdonald’s boasts over 38,000 restaurants across more than 100 locations worldwide as of January 2020.
The total assets and a net income amounting to 31 billion and 4.6 billion respectively are enough proof to solidify that McDonald’s continues to stand as a significant player in the fast-food sector.
Together, McDonald’s wraps up some of the best specials for dinner, lunch, and breakfast. And of course, it would be unjust not to mention the array of snacks they offer for people who feel hungry in between and prefer something light and handy to go with.
McDonald’s won the name for being one of the best and most affordable fast-food chains at the turn of the 21st century. This is primarily on account of its Dollar Menu, where whatever you can find in the menu will only cost you a buck, as the name implies. However, times have changed.
McDonald’s initiated a $1-3 Dollar menu. Still, the only things you will ever really find in it nationwide are small-sized coffees or regular-sized sodas. Despite that, McDonald’s offers many options overall to keep fast-food dining costs at a minimum.
On an occasional basis, McDonald’s does continue running enticing promotions on its breakfast sandwiches and value meals on and off. These deals are enough to lure anyone to the golden arches, even at times when you weren’t really thinking about having McDonald’s.
11 Best Affordable Alternatives to McDonald’s You Can Consider
There is no doubt that Mcdonald’s was, is, and continues to be an all-time favorite and the most preferred fast-food joint globally. However, even though McDonald’s is one of the leading fast-food giants with an extensive history of innovation and inexpensive meals, the food, and beverage sector continues to grow speedily.
Despite McDonald’s having the largest fast-food presence globally, it is susceptible to greater competition more now than ever. As a result, numerous other fast-food restaurants are seriously taking their services and reputation up a notch and can definitely be considered fantastic alternatives to McDonald’s.
So, if you are all set to branch out and give some of these other restaurants a try, it’s time to check out these 11 best affordable alternatives to McDonald’s that serve equally good food and that too at reasonable prices.
1) Burger King
Burger King is probably the most powerful and direct rival for McDonald’s, which ultimately makes it one of the best alternatives to McDonald’s too. Burger King’s Mighty Whopper certainly gives a tough competition to Big Mac in the burger wars.
By the end of 2018, Burger King recorded a revenue worth over $1.65 billion. As of 2020, Burger King had approximately 18,625 restaurants spread across more than 100 countries. The fast-food joint caters its services to roughly 11 million visitors across the world daily.
Like McDonald’s, Burger King also offers a Value Menu featuring an entire list of food items that are inexpensive and incredibly filling. Alongside the value menu, Burger King also offers an enticingly hearty menu of combo meals for lunch, dinner, and even breakfast. You can even find plenty of options in beverages and snacks at Burger King.
Compared to other fast-food joints, Burger King certainly provides value for money. Its value lies in the fact that most of its value menu meals are very filling. In fact, consumers can easily gratify their ravishing stomachs at Burger King for just a few bucks.
Wendy’s is yet another fast food joint that certainly packs up a Value Menu alongside moderately priced meals and can definitely be deemed a suitable alternative to McDonald’s. Like Burger King, Wendy’s is also McDonald’s direct competitor. However, its primary selling point of focus is also burgers.
Wendy’s happens to be the world’s third-largest burger seller, just falling a little behind Burger King and McDonald’s. Also, over the years, the fast-food chain has gradually extended its business across many different locations globally. This has ultimately led the company to boost its revenues.
Though it is not spread as extensively as McDonald’s, it has almost the same core values as the leading fast-food giant. However, Wendy’s is attempting to set itself apart from McDonald’s by differentiating its quality and taste. In addition, Wendy’s burgers come in square-shaped patties. This is unlike any other fast food restaurant and gives them a distinctive look.
Some of the lowest-priced options in Wendy’s menu appear under their section of Meal Deals and Biggie Deals. Under here, you can find some good options that cost under a dollar and many other reasonably priced meal combos.
Even though Wendy’s is not really renowned for any of its sandwiches in particular as McDonald’s is, it is certainly known for its low prices and great taste. This is why consumers keep coming back to Wendy’s for more.
Fatburger is one of those fast-food joints that has been in the industry for over 60 years. Still, it has only recently started expanding its business to other parts of the world. Unfortunately, even to this date, Fatburger tends to be one of the most underrated fast-food chains.
Nevertheless, its juiciest and flavorful burgers and fries definitely make it one of the best affordable alternatives to McDonald’s! Like the name indicates, the burgers at Fatburger are fat and fully loaded with meaty goodness. All the burgers at this fast-food joint are equipped with all “The Works” that include tomatoes, lettuce, onions, relish, pickles, mayo, and mustard.
One particular burger you won’t find in any other fast-food joints is the Skinny Burger, which substitutes the traditional buns with two meaty patties. This means you get double the meaty goodness and a chance to devour a delectable burger without all those bad carbs!
The fast-casual burger joint is operational 24/7. Besides, their classic burgers are made to order with various sizes of patties available.
4) Shake Shack
Shake Shack initially started in 2021 as a simple hot dog stand. But, surprisingly, it has successfully managed to become one of the most rapidly growing burger joints. It primarily executes the classic American-style burgers along with a few tempting and exciting combos.
If you take just a glance, the two fast-food burger joints, Shake Shack and McDonald’s, look quite similar. However, while McDonald’s usually aims for the market’s value piece and children, in particular, Shake Shacks generally targets the business’s premium side.
Of course, McDonald’s is much bigger and older. Still, Shake Shack has already gotten hold of a dominant slice of the burger landscape, especially since it is much younger than McDonald’s. Besides, Shake Shack is far more nimble and can focus on value in ways that the giant can’t.
Shake Shack wraps up an impressive menu of burgers and fries that are great alternatives to McDonald’s in terms of taste. Chicken lovers will absolutely fall in love with the Chicken Shack burger, which comprises a crispy chicken breast fillet with pickles, lettuce, and buttermilk herb mayo. This, alongside a bed of crinkle-cut fries drenched in cheese, is something that is definitely worth devouring.
Shake Shack is one of those flagship brands that seems to be slowly capturing the fast-casual sector. It is heavily competing in the market space between leading fast-food restaurants like McDonald’s.
On the contrary, you can expect Shake Shack to be a tad more expensive than McDonald’s. Still, the brand believes it doesn’t need to be everything for everyone. Instead, it aims to be the best thing for individuals who want it.
5) Carl’s Jr.
Carl’s Jr. is one of the most popular chains of fast-food that is run by a global restaurant company. The restaurant takes great pride in offering a diverse menu of fast-food items. The burritos, burgers, and spectacular breakfast range at Carl’s Jr. are bound to leave your entire family feeling totally satisfied and full to the stomach.
Besides this, Carl Jr. also provides innovative offerings such as turkey burgers, something you won’t find at McDonald’s. Oh, and if you want some recommendations for what you should order at Carl’s Jr. on your next visit, then you absolutely need to have a taste of the Triple Fiery Famous Star Burger alongside some Crisscut fries cooked to perfection.
And, if you still have a bit of space left after all of this, don’t forget to squeeze in a delectable hand-scooped ice cream shake after that.
Jack in the Box, an American fast-food joint, was founded in 1951 and headquartered in San Diego, California. The fast-food chain boasts more than 2,200 locations, mainly serving the West Coast of the US.
This particular fast-food chain restaurant wraps up many of its own specialties, like the Ultimate Cheeseburger and the Jumbo Jack. In addition, new items in the menu, such as the Spicy Sriracha Burger and the Cholula Buttery Jack, are two of the most popular and hit items on Jack’s Box menu.
Altogether, Jack in the Box offers an exclusive range of must-try items, from shakes and fries to nuggets and burgers to tacos and teriyaki bowls and tacos to brunch and breakfast. Still, the chain primarily sticks to burgers, making it a pretty decent and affordable alternative to McDonald’s.
So, the next time your cravings for fast food hit, you definitely need to swing by the Jack in the Box drive-thru and try out their impressive assortment of food choices.
If this name has still not been able to grab your attention, then we bet the food at Fuddruckers certainly will. Fuddruckers was merely born out of a yearning to provide the world’s best burgers.
This American fast-casual franchise restaurant has gradually been expanding its business. By 2019, it had 107 franchises and 49 company-owned restaurants across the United States and other parts of the world.
By all means, Fuddruckers claims that it offers the best hamburgers in the world. It is best known for its top-quality ingredients and impressive menu. Their big, fresh burgers are bound to put all the burger cravings aside for anyone entering through their restaurant.
There is a high chance that one bite of Fuddruckers hamburgers will probably never have you returning to McDonald’s. The prices here are slightly higher but justified as the quality is for sure reflected in Fuddruckers’s smoking beef patties.
Smashburger is another famous burger chain that also happens to be a relatively new kid around the block. The company was founded in 2007, much later than McDonald’s, but has already expanded across over 300 locations in 36 states.
At one point, Smashburger was known for serving one-of-a-kind burgers across each city where it was located so that consumers can relish varied menus across the country. Currently, Smashburger has standardized its menu where it offers an incredible selection of grilled and fried patty burgers.
People who are health conscious or prefer to skip the meat can also check out the impressive range of veggie burgers offered by Smashburger. Smashburger can be considered an excellent alternative to McDonald’s in terms of variety.
The food is definitely of better quality. It is also more customizable, making the price a tad higher than McDonald’s but worth it. One cannot accuse Smashburger of being named so as their beef is literally smashed in a seasoned and buttered grill to achieve the perfectly tantalizing meat flavor.
Beyond the infamous smashing technique, its success can be profoundly credited to the fact that Smashburger has mastered its entire menu. So even though you will find limited options here compared to McDonald’s, every item on the menu is really good.
If you want to really treat yourself, then you must grab a bite of Smashburger’s signature Twice-Smoked Brisket Burger. We assure you, it will have you go into a meat coma!
9) Five Guys
If you are looking for the best of the best burger joint, one that undoubtedly leaves you hoping you didn’t wear your skin-tight jeans, then Five Guys is definitely your go-to place. In comparison, McDonald’s has a reputation of its own with its classic hamburgers.
The fresh beef cheeseburgers tagged along with the signature style peanut-cooked fries at Five Guys are simply unparalleled. Five Guys definitely know how to do their burgers right. When it comes to McDonald’s alternatives, Five Guys is the perfect one because they serve the freshest burgers every time.
Their evident expertise in preparing burgers can even leave the leading giant McDonald’s behind. While other fast-food joints, including McDonald’s, claim to be experts in this particular field, the chefs at Five Guys have the recipes sticking down to a science to the extent that they don’t need any timers. This is the secret behind why all their burgers are so spectacular.
In-N-Out has become a household name across the entire United States of America despite its scarcity beyond California. Its reputation speaks volumes itself, so there really isn’t a need to dive into a whole list of reasons why people are so deeply in love with this burger joint.
The thing that makes people so excited to have a bite from such a simple, fast-food chain is its consistently impressive quality of food, speedy services, and budget-friendly prices. In-N-Out has got to be one of the best affordable alternatives to McDonald’s. Still, there is certainly no compromise on the food quality.
The reason behind it is that In-N-Out has a relatively simple menu with limited options. But still, there is a secret menu that features intense variations of consumer favorites using their best ingredients. The fan-favorite also enables you to double, triple, or even quadruple the size of your burgers to test your appetite to the ultimate limit.
11) Johnny Rockets
If you prefer to experience dining at an authentic, old-fashioned American Diner, then you will be pleased to know that Johnny Rockets is exactly that kind of place. However, if the eclectic music from the 1950s is not enough, then the loaded cheese tots or signature Rocket Joe’s burgers might surely lure you in.
Johnny Rocket’s Route 66 burger is a unique twist on the regular burgers you will find in the United States. It comprises a thick and juicy Angus beef patty, smothered with delectable Swiss cheese, caramelized onions, grilled mushrooms, topped with a layer of creamy mayo within a soft brioche bun.
The prices at Johnny Rockets are average given the fast-casual industry, so it can also count as a decent and affordable alternative to McDonald’s, if not the best.
While some of these alternatives to McDonald’s might cost you slightly more than McDonald’s, know that these fast-food joints offer fantastic food and service to their customers. McDonald’s continues to be the leading fast-food joint. Still, these other fast-food chains are also worth trying as they continue to offer newer and more exciting flavors to suit the consumers’ tastes and preferences.