Can Fast Food Workers Afford to Eat Fast Food? (Slideshow)

How long does a minimum-wage employee have to work in order to afford the most expensive item on the menu?

20) McDonald's, Southwest Chicken Salad, $4.79 (38.3 minutes)

The world’s most popular hamburger fast-food chain ranks at number 20 on our list. While some of their specialty quarter pounders and salads are a bit higher in price, in general most menu items fall into the value meal spectrum. They also offer Extra Value Meals that include fries and a drink, but the single most expensive item is their Southwest Chicken Salad with either grilled or crispy chicken.


19) Chick-fil-A, Chargrilled Chicken Sandwich, $4.89 (39.1 minutes)

Chick-fil-A began in Georgia with the promise of providing high-quality chicken to the masses. Their menu prices tend to be a bit higher than their competitors due to the quality of chicken used in their sandwiches. The Chargrilled Chicken Sandwich is the most expensive item on the menu at $4.89. 


18) Burger King, Chipotle Chicken Sandwich, $4.99 (39.9 minutes)

Burger King is often seen as going head-to-head with its arch rival, McDonald’s, and often has higher prices as well. The chain has over 12,000 fast food restaurants in over 70 countries in the world. Currently, their most expensive item is their seasonal Chipotle Chicken Sandwich. For $4.99 consumers can choose from either crispy or grilled chicken. 


17) Sonic, SuperSONIC Bacon Double Cheeseburger, $5.09 (40.7 minutes)

Sonic Drive-In is a popular fast-food chain with more than 3,500 locations in 43 states. Patrons can choose to drive through and park to enjoy their food or physically walk into a Sonic storefront. (Added bonus: servers roll up to cars wearing rollerblades.) The menu is quite extensive, offering everything from tater tots to hot dogs to burgers. The SuperSONIC Bacon Double Cheeseburger is one colossal sandwich for which the restaurant charges $5.09. 


16) Arby's, Angus Philly, $5.29 (42.3 minutes)

Arby’s, which is best known for its roast beef and beef and cheddar sandwiches, is owned by the same company as Wendy’s and they're very similar in their pricing structure. The classic beef and Cheddar sandwich that many are familiar with costs $3.69, but for those who want to test the limits, its Angus Philly sandwich and the Angus Three Cheese and Bacon cost a whopping $5.29.


15) Taco Bell, Fiesta Taco Salad, Chicken, $5.49 (43.9 minutes)

Taco Bell, compared to other fast-food competitors, is considered to be a more cost-effective option than a Wendy’s or Arby’s. They are known for their Tex-Mex style items such as quesadillas, burritos, and nachos. However, to keep up with the trend of offering healthful items on menus, the restaurant now offers a Fiesta Taco Salad with chicken that costs $5.49. 


14) Dairy Queen, Chicken Salad, $5.59 (44.7 minutes)

While Dairy Queen is famous for its ice cream, Blizzards, and other frozen treats, many of their locations offer a full-fledged food menu. They have a half-pound FlameThrower GrillBurger, which clocks in at $5.29, but not to be outdone is their Chicken Salad, crispy or grilled, that costs a cool $5.59.

13) Culver's, Double Culver's Bacon Deluxe, $5.59 (44.7 minutes)

This Midwestern fast-food chain is famous for its butter burgers that are relatively larger than their competitors’ hamburgers. Patrons also flock to the local eatery for its shakes, malts, and frozen custard. The most expensive menu item currently is The Culver’s Bacon Deluxe, priced at $5.59. 


12) KFC, Famous Bowls, $5.99 (47.9 minutes)

KFC, made popular for its tasty fried chicken, has made a big push to create healthier menu items and offer other alternatives, like the popular KFC Famous Bowls. While KFC is also known for serving larger, family-style meals that include a mixed variety of chicken wings and drumsticks, the Famous Bowls are the highest-priced single menu item, coming in at $5.99. 


11) Wendy's, Baconator, Various Salads $6.29 (50.3 minutes)

Wendy’s is consistently ranked number three behind McDonald’s and Burger King as the top fast-food restaurants in the nation. While their menu has a variety of burgers, chicken, sandwiches, and fries, they are best known for using square-shaped patties for their hamburgers. Their salads are relatively expensive, like their Apple Pecan Salad, Chicken BLT Cobb, and Spicy Chicken Caesar, which match the price of its popular oversized hamburger, the Baconator. All of the items cost $6.29. 


10) Steak 'n Shake, Southwest Chicken Salad, Apple Pecan Salad, & California Steak Burger, $6.49 (51.9 minutes)

Similar to Wendy’s pricing structure, the most expensive menu items at Steak 'n Shake are their specialty hamburgers and their full-sized salads. Steak 'n Shakes are found mostly in the Midwest and Southern states and are quite appealing to consumers because of their 24-hour policy. The restaurant’s Steakburgers are beef burgers made from T-bone, sirloin, and round steaks, which make the quality of the food higher in direct contrast with many of their competitors. Their salads, along with the California Steak Burger, cost $6.49.


9) Chipotle, Burrito Bowl, Carnitas or Barbacoa, $6.65 (53.2 minutes)

Chipotle Mexican Grill is known as a fast-casual dining establishment. Patrons can choose from a variety of options such as burrito bowls, burritos, tacos, and salads and can choose to add on toppings like salsa and guacamole. All of their items use natural and organic ingredients. Their single most expensive item is their burrito bowl, consisting of rice and a choice of meat. However, if guests choose to add on cheese, extra meat or chicken, and guacamole, the price increases dramatically and can often times cost more than $10. The burrito bowl itself without any additions with carnitas or barbacoa (choices of meat) comes in at $6.65. 


8) Long John Silver's, Shrimp Basket, $6.79 (54.3 minutes)

With more than 1,300 Long John Silver’s restaurants worldwide, the seafood fast-food chain has made a name for itself by serving larger meals as opposed to singular items. They offer a variety of platters and family meals that are extremely cost-effective. The most expensive singular item is the shrimp basket that costs $6.79. 


7) Five Guys, Bacon Cheeseburger, $6.99 (55.9 minutes)

Five Guys is known as being a higher-quality burger chain that uses beef that is 100 percent fresh with no fillers or preservatives. Another added bonus at Five Guys is that when a customer orders a hamburger or hot dog, they are offered a plethora of toppings including mayo, lettuce, pickles, tomatoes, grilled onions, grilled mushrooms, ketchup, mustard, relish, onions, jalapeños, green peppers, A.1. Steak Sauce, barbecue sauce, and hot sauce, at no additional cost. The highest-priced item currently is the bacon cheeseburger, sold for $6.99. 


6) Jimmy John's, The J.J. Gargantuan, $7.59 (60.7 minutes)

Jimmy John’s is a fast-food sub shop that competes with Subway and Quiznos. While the other two offer a variety of sizes of subs, Jimmy John’s offers 8-inch subs, making them a bit pricier. Their most expensive menu item is the J. J. Gargantuan, a sub filled with Genoa salami, sliced smoked ham, capicola, roast beef, turkey, and provolone, served on a homemade French bun smothered with onions, mayo, lettuce, tomato, and their homemade Italian dressing. The oversized sub costs $7.59.


5) White Castle, Sack of Fish Nibblers, $7.99 (63.9 minutes)

White Castle, a burger chain famous for its small sliders, is usually on the lower-end of the cost spectrum for fast-food purveyors. However, one of their pricier singular items is the sack of fish nibblers that costs $7.99, quite high compared to their single sliders that go for $0.69. 


4) Quiznos, Black Angus on Rosemary Foccacia, Large, $7.99 (63.9 minutes)

Denver-based sandwich shop Quiznos offers an array of options when it comes to large and small sandwiches. Quiznos is second to Subway in terms of overall revenue and popularity, and offers a variety of other menu options beyond subs that include flatbreads, salads, and soups. Currently, the top tier menu item is the black Angus steak on rosemary focaccia, which costs $7.99. 


3) Subway, Big Philly Cheesesteak, $8.25 (66 minutes)

Subway, the number one sandwich chain in the U.S., has a wide array of sub options that vary in pricing. But their biggest, most outrageously expensive menu item is the foot-long Big Philly Cheesesteak that costs a cool $8.25. Dubbed a "meat lover’s dream" by the company, the sandwich includes sliced steak smothered with melted cheese. 


2) Panda Express, Any Single Entrée (Including Mandarin Chicken, Beijing Beef, etc.), $9.50 (76 minutes)

Panda Express is a well-known fast-food restaurant, recognized best for serving "Americanized" Chinese food. With more than 1,500 restaurants nationwide, Panda Express is famous for its plates of Chinese food, which mix and match entrée options and sides. However, the most expensive item is any single entrée that includes choices like Mandarin Chicken or Bejing Beef that sell for $9.50 for a large plate. 


1) Panera Bread, Pesto Sechettinni Pasta and Penne Bolognese, $9.99 (79.9 minutes)

Panera Bread has been rising in the ranks when it comes to healthier fast-casual options. This restaurant offers a number of different menu options, including sandwiches, paninis, salads, soups, and pasta. Currently, the pasta bar tops the list of highest-priced food items. The large pesto Sechettinni pasta costs $9.99, as does the rustic penne Bolognese.