McDonalds' McNuggets pricing scheme - why anti-bulk advantage?

So this evening I had a craving for McNuggets. I walk down to the McDonalds in my neighborhood, intending to order a 20 pack. However, while standing in line, I noticed something quite interesting when looking at the menu:

4 piece - $1
10 piece $3.99
20 piece $6.29

If, rather than ordering the 20 piece, I ordered 5 of the 4 pieces off of the Dollar menu, I would save $1.29. Infact, I could get 24 (4x6) for less than the cost of the 20 piece! By making this order, it also makes things more complicated for the cashier and the kitchen staff, and they also have to use 5 boxes rather than 1 box. All logic (and the way that MOST industries do business) points to the 10 & 20 pieces (or bulk item) costing LESS than the small quantity’s equivalent, not MORE.

I was half expecting the cashier to suggest I just get a 20 piece, in which case I would have pointed out that it was cheaper to get 5 off the dollar menu and that I’ve never heard of McDonalds having limitations on what I order, but they rang it up and delivered it as I ordered. Just what is McDonalds trying to pull here? Do they think that most of their customers don’t know how to do basic math, or do they think that the really hungry customers either aren’t going to care how much they pay, or not be cheap enough to try to save $1.29 (hey, if we weren’t cheap, we wouldn’t be eating at McDonalds anyway).

They’ll never suggest that you gat a 20-piece pack because they’ll assume that you’re taking it to four kids who each wants their own pack. If they bother to think about it at all.

Is the $1 pack on sale from a higher regular price? I’m just asking because in my area I think the small pack is a 6 piece, and it’s priced higher per piece than the 10 pack. The 20 pack is just two 10 packs.

My guess is that they had to put something on the $1 menu so they came up with 4 McNuggets. This pricing may be attractive to parents with small children who can barely get through 4 McNuggets… but I don’t work there so take it for what it’s worth.

The OP is talking about the ‘Dollar Menu’, which isn’t available in all areas, one of which must be yours.

The idea (about multiple kids) makes good sense.

Yup. I agree with them. Most people think doing the math is too much effort. Next time you go to the grocery store and buy the big bag assuming it would be cheaper, check the price and do the math. Maybe there was a time when you could assume that the big bag was cheaper, but not anymore. Buyer beware.

They really like to have a Dollar Menu, especially in economically precarious times, as it makes people feel better that they are being frugal by going to McD.'s.

N.B. that some of this psychological benefit can accrue even if you don’t do the math and order the 20 piece – windfall profit there for them, and you are still convinced that the place has cheap options. (I’ve always thought the salads and esp. the apple slices were even more psychologically manipulative – I think I’ve seen one person order the apple slices, ever, but by touting them, they get you to think it’s generally a diet-friendly place).

N.B. too the concept of “loss leaders.” If the Dollar Menu gets you in the door, the odds are very strong that a one dollar McNuggets won’t be all you buy. If you also order some fries and then a large soda (markup: 9000% (that’s a WAG)), the aggregate transaction is still profitable.

Does anybody sit there with their calculator and figure if a “meal deal” is really a better price? Unfortunately, I don’t and I suspect that on more than one occasion I’ve been screwed. At McBarf’s substitute a shake for a soda and see what happens to the total.

Our local franchisee noticed this right quick - and placed a limit on the four piece McNuggets - you could ONLY by them as part of a Kid’s Meal, and not separately.

Franchisees have some history of battling these things – I remember some big city franchisees saying they wanted not to participate in the BK value menu because while it was all fine and well to do that in Podunk, the significantly higher rents, labor costs, etc. in N.Y.C. or Chicago made it a BIG LOSS leader.

Well, you generally don’t have to do the math, as any decent grocery store will have a unit price printed as well.

This is true, but often you will find the bulk is more expensive by a penny or two. That won’t be presented in the bulk price. It may not be a big deal to the consumer, but multiplied by thousands buying it and many other products priced with a similar strategy, and there is plenty of money in it.

I’ve noticed a disturbing trend where stores will post unit pricing of brand A in cents per ounce, and post the unit price for brand B in cents per thing (per x number of tissues or product pieces or whatever). Makes it near impossible to do a fair comparrison.

Once, I saw something (I think it was hamburger buns) that had three different standards for price-per. One variety was priced per ounce, the one on the next shelf was priced per unit (per bun, in this case), and the next one after that was priced per unit (where the unit was “one package”, which is of course completely useless). Usually, though, they do everything in the same units (ounces, where relevant), so I think that one was just a goof.

Yes, usually, it “saves” you about a quarter.

(Though at In-N-Out it’s exactly the same price as if you had ordered the items separately.)

I am not sure what your point about shakes is supposed to be. The price goes up by the difference between the price of a shake and the price of a drink.


[hijack]Holy crap, 20 nuggets are 920 calories, without any sauces.

I would have guessed the 4 piece would be smaller nuggets. McD’s is famous for pumping air into their shakes so you think you’re getting more than you do.

But no, it would appear a McNugget is 16g is 16g is 16g, based on the figures in here.

Are you suprised they are that many calories, or suprised someone would eat all those nuggets a single sitting?


The store I shop at has really really small tags by each item with the comparitive info on them. The type is really small and in some strange “computer” font with several groups of numbers and the actual comparitive info buried among all the other crap. Yea, they’re trying real hard to help us get the best deal.

One of my friends in high school (who had to be close to 300 lbs) once ate a 50 piece by himself.

If you want to see scary calories, look at the back of a Hungry-Man frozen dinner box. Their Big-Breakfast is 2100!!! I believe McDonald’s breakfast platter is in that same range too. Now that all of the fast food restaurants have calories printed on the menus (and yes, it said 950 next to the 20 piece, 190 next to the 4 piece, and I’m aware that eating at McDonalds is not going to result in a healthy meal no matter what, which is why I only do it when I have the craving), it’s easier to think twice about what I really want. Especially at Popeyes…who knew that Beans & Rice was the highest calorie side dish, and that their fries really aren’t all that bad in comparison to most of the alternatives?

“Deluxe Breakfast” is 1150 calories. (That doesn’t include syrup or margarine, though.)

An incredibly ridiculous number of calories for a single meal even if it’s not more than the average person should be eating through an entire day.