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The Most Expensive Cities for Food Delivery in the U.S.

For close to four decades, the infamous ‘Big Mac Index’ [1] The Economist, ‘The Big Mac Index’ - May 2022 https://www.economist.com/big-mac-index has shown us that you can analyze economic data by using just the price of burgers. That got us thinking. 

Inspired by The New York Times’ analysis in 2020 [2] New York Times, ‘Up to 91% More Expensive: How Delivery Apps Eat Up Your Budget’ https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/26/technology/personaltech/ubereats-doordash-postmates-grubhub-review.html, we wanted to know how the price of food delivery changes across the U.S. when using different apps and how much more expensive it is to use these platforms than getting the food yourself.

To find out, we placed McDonald’s orders in the 100 largest metropolitan areas in the nation on DoorDash, Uber Eats, and Grubhub. The exact order we placed contained a Quarter Pounder regular meal, a regular 10-piece McNugget meal, a regular Coca-Cola®, and a side of regular fries. The orders were kept exactly the same each time to be able to compare the price increase fairly. Here’s what we found.

Contents

Key findings:

Which city is the most expensive for food delivery?

Seattle is the most expensive city for food delivery, costing $55.35 for our example order, which would only cost $23.53 when buying direct in The Emerald City, that’s a markup of 135% between the restaurant and delivery app. The average cost for this same order across the 100 cities in the U.S. analyzed came to $39.69 when using food delivery apps.

Seattle’s most expensive food delivery app was a tie between DoorDash and Uber Eats, both costing $57.07, while the cheapest was Grubhub, where the same order cost $51.91.  

The price of our order varied across the nation even when buying directly, however, Seattle had the highest average total across all three delivery apps analyzed. 

Top 100 cities ranked by food delivery app cost

Here are the 100 biggest cities in the U.S. ranked by the average order total on food delivery apps in the U.S.

Rank City State Restaurant Cost Average Cost on Food Apps Markup
Rank 1 City Seattle State Washington Restaurant Cost $23.53 Average Cost on Food Apps $55.35 Markup 135%
Rank 2 City San Francisco State California Restaurant Cost $35.10 Average Cost on Food Apps $50.81 Markup 45%
Rank 3 City Chula Vista State California Restaurant Cost $30.62 Average Cost on Food Apps $50.68 Markup 66%
Rank 4 City New York State New York Restaurant Cost $27.93 Average Cost on Food Apps $48.66 Markup 74%
Rank 5 City Washington State D.C. Restaurant Cost $22.04 Average Cost on Food Apps $48.23 Markup 119%
Rank 6 City Irvine State California Restaurant Cost $22.58 Average Cost on Food Apps $47.84 Markup 112%
Rank 7 City Sacramento State California Restaurant Cost $17.80 Average Cost on Food Apps $47.50 Markup 167%
Rank 8 City San Diego State California Restaurant Cost $19.14 Average Cost on Food Apps $47.30 Markup 147%
Rank 9 City Buffalo State New York Restaurant Cost $26.62 Average Cost on Food Apps $46.57 Markup 75%
Rank 10 City Kansas City State Missouri Restaurant Cost $20.08 Average Cost on Food Apps $46.23 Markup 130%
Rank 11 City Anchorage State Alaska Restaurant Cost $28.30 Average Cost on Food Apps $45.33 Markup 60%
Rank 12 City Anaheim State California Restaurant Cost $20.21 Average Cost on Food Apps $44.96 Markup 122%
Rank 13 City Omaha State Nebraska Restaurant Cost $16.66 Average Cost on Food Apps $44.73 Markup 168%
Rank 14 City Santa Ana State California Restaurant Cost $17.11 Average Cost on Food Apps $44.39 Markup 159%
Rank 15 City Tucson State Arizona Restaurant Cost $18.00 Average Cost on Food Apps $44.32 Markup 146%
Rank 16 City Long Beach State California Restaurant Cost $26.09 Average Cost on Food Apps $44.03 Markup 69%
Rank 17 City Los Angeles State California Restaurant Cost $22.73 Average Cost on Food Apps $43.91 Markup 93%
Rank 18 City Riverside State California Restaurant Cost $15.83 Average Cost on Food Apps $43.68 Markup 176%
Rank 19 City San Jose State California Restaurant Cost $22.82 Average Cost on Food Apps $43.29 Markup 90%
Rank 20 City Portland State Oregon Restaurant Cost $26.40 Average Cost on Food Apps $42.92 Markup 63%
Rank 21 City Spokane State Washington Restaurant Cost $17.77 Average Cost on Food Apps $42.80 Markup 141%
Rank 22 City Boston State Massachusetts Restaurant Cost $18.98 Average Cost on Food Apps $42.62 Markup 125%
Rank 23 City Minneapolis State Minnesota Restaurant Cost $20.59 Average Cost on Food Apps $42.60 Markup 107%
Rank 24 City Stockton City State California Restaurant Cost $15.87 Average Cost on Food Apps $42.50 Markup 168%
Rank 25 City Chicago State Illinois Restaurant Cost $20.80 Average Cost on Food Apps $42.50 Markup 104%
Rank 26 City Philadelphia State Pennsylvania Restaurant Cost $16.85 Average Cost on Food Apps $42.38 Markup 152%
Rank 27 City Tampa State Florida Restaurant Cost $29.30 Average Cost on Food Apps $42.31 Markup 44%
Rank 28 City Oakland State California Restaurant Cost $16.05 Average Cost on Food Apps $42.12 Markup 162%
Rank 29 City Newark State New Jersey Restaurant Cost $21.64 Average Cost on Food Apps $41.58 Markup 92%
Rank 30 City Denver State Colorado Restaurant Cost $18.25 Average Cost on Food Apps $41.53 Markup 128%
Rank 31 City Jersey City State New Jersey Restaurant Cost $20.32 Average Cost on Food Apps $41.42 Markup 104%
Rank 32 City Fremont State California Restaurant Cost $22.09 Average Cost on Food Apps $41.23 Markup 87%
Rank 33 City Corpus Christi State Texas Restaurant Cost $15.30 Average Cost on Food Apps $41.04 Markup 168%
Rank 34 City Scottsdale State Arizona Restaurant Cost $19.05 Average Cost on Food Apps $41.03 Markup 115%
Rank 35 City St. Petersburg State Florida Restaurant Cost $20.50 Average Cost on Food Apps $40.98 Markup 100%
Rank 36 City Colorado Springs State Colorado Restaurant Cost $15.76 Average Cost on Food Apps $40.63 Markup 158%
Rank 37 City Louisville State Kentucky Restaurant Cost $24.55 Average Cost on Food Apps $40.60 Markup 65%
Rank 38 City Fresno State California Restaurant Cost $16.05 Average Cost on Food Apps $40.47 Markup 152%
Rank 39 City North Las Vegas State Nevada Restaurant Cost $19.11 Average Cost on Food Apps $40.27 Markup 111%
Rank 40 City San Antonio State Texas Restaurant Cost $15.98 Average Cost on Food Apps $40.10 Markup 151%
Rank 41 City St. Paul State Minnesota Restaurant Cost $22.45 Average Cost on Food Apps $40.09 Markup 79%
Rank 42 City Dallas State Texas Restaurant Cost $16.63 Average Cost on Food Apps $39.99 Markup 140%
Rank 43 City Oklahoma City State Oklahoma Restaurant Cost $17.04 Average Cost on Food Apps $39.97 Markup 135%
Rank 44 City Madison State Wisconsin Restaurant Cost $22.12 Average Cost on Food Apps $39.85 Markup 80%
Rank 45 City Atlanta State Georgia Restaurant Cost $16.12 Average Cost on Food Apps $39.69 Markup 146%
Rank 46 City Jacksonville State Florida Restaurant Cost $17.32 Average Cost on Food Apps $39.67 Markup 129%
Rank 47 City Henderson State Nevada Restaurant Cost $28.67 Average Cost on Food Apps $39.38 Markup 37%
Rank 48 City Greensboro State North Carolina Restaurant Cost $15.98 Average Cost on Food Apps $39.30 Markup 146%
Rank 49 City Orlando State Florida Restaurant Cost $20.09 Average Cost on Food Apps $39.28 Markup 96%
Rank 50 City Pittsburgh State Pennsylvania Restaurant Cost $16.38 Average Cost on Food Apps $39.26 Markup 140%
Rank 51 City Miami State Florida Restaurant Cost $21.79 Average Cost on Food Apps $39.12 Markup 80%
Rank 52 City Virginia Beach State Virginia Restaurant Cost $13.75 Average Cost on Food Apps $39.12 Markup 184%
Rank 53 City Mesa State Arizona Restaurant Cost $24.43 Average Cost on Food Apps $39.04 Markup 60%
Rank 54 City Gilbert State Arizona Restaurant Cost $19.01 Average Cost on Food Apps $38.89 Markup 105%
Rank 55 City Baltimore State Maryland Restaurant Cost $19.15 Average Cost on Food Apps $38.83 Markup 103%
Rank 56 City Fort Wayne State Indiana Restaurant Cost $14.94 Average Cost on Food Apps $38.67 Markup 159%
Rank 57 City Memphis State Tennessee Restaurant Cost $16.42 Average Cost on Food Apps $38.51 Markup 135%
Rank 58 City Norfolk State Virginia Restaurant Cost $19.59 Average Cost on Food Apps $38.50 Markup 97%
Rank 59 City Phoenix State Arizona Restaurant Cost $18.42 Average Cost on Food Apps $38.50 Markup 109%
Rank 60 City Bakersfield State California Restaurant Cost $17.38 Average Cost on Food Apps $38.34 Markup 121%
Rank 61 City Columbus State Ohio Restaurant Cost $24.26 Average Cost on Food Apps $38.21 Markup 58%
Rank 62 City Hialeah State Florida Restaurant Cost $19.01 Average Cost on Food Apps $38.16 Markup 101%
Rank 63 City St. Louis State Missouri Restaurant Cost $25.42 Average Cost on Food Apps $38.06 Markup 50%
Rank 64 City Nashville State Tennessee Restaurant Cost $16.23 Average Cost on Food Apps $37.95 Markup 134%
Rank 65 City Richmond State Virginia Restaurant Cost $18.00 Average Cost on Food Apps $37.91 Markup 111%
Rank 66 City Plano State Texas Restaurant Cost $25.80 Average Cost on Food Apps $37.85 Markup 47%
Rank 67 City Chesapeake State Virginia Restaurant Cost $20.95 Average Cost on Food Apps $37.56 Markup 79%
Rank 68 City Baton Rouge State Louisiana Restaurant Cost $23.17 Average Cost on Food Apps $37.51 Markup 62%
Rank 69 City Las Vegas State Nevada Restaurant Cost $17.62 Average Cost on Food Apps $37.49 Markup 113%
Rank 70 City Glendale State California Restaurant Cost $21.88 Average Cost on Food Apps $37.46 Markup 71%
Rank 71 City Honolulu State Hawaii Restaurant Cost $20.57 Average Cost on Food Apps $37.46 Markup 82%
Rank 72 City Lexington State Kentucky Restaurant Cost $25.55 Average Cost on Food Apps $37.36 Markup 46%
Rank 73 City Winston-Salem State North Carolina Restaurant Cost $17.80 Average Cost on Food Apps $37.10 Markup 108%
Rank 74 City Reno State Nevada Restaurant Cost $14.59 Average Cost on Food Apps $36.93 Markup 153%
Rank 75 City Indianapolis State Indiana Restaurant Cost $17.43 Average Cost on Food Apps $36.86 Markup 111%
Rank 76 City Wichita State Kansas Restaurant Cost $16.59 Average Cost on Food Apps $36.83 Markup 122%
Rank 77 City Detroit State Michigan Restaurant Cost $20.32 Average Cost on Food Apps $36.81 Markup 81%
Rank 78 City Arlington State Texas Restaurant Cost $26.08 Average Cost on Food Apps $36.61 Markup 40%
Rank 79 City Chandler State Arizona Restaurant Cost $22.82 Average Cost on Food Apps $36.60 Markup 60%
Rank 80 City Durham State North Carolina Restaurant Cost $20.41 Average Cost on Food Apps $36.37 Markup 78%
Rank 81 City Charlotte State North Carolina Restaurant Cost $27.06 Average Cost on Food Apps $36.34 Markup 34%
Rank 82 City Aurora State Colorado Restaurant Cost $20.64 Average Cost on Food Apps $36.31 Markup 76%
Rank 83 City Raleigh State North Carolina Restaurant Cost $16.98 Average Cost on Food Apps $36.19 Markup 113%
Rank 84 City Cleveland State Ohio Restaurant Cost $16.97 Average Cost on Food Apps $35.84 Markup 111%
Rank 85 City New Orleans State Louisiana Restaurant Cost $16.32 Average Cost on Food Apps $35.79 Markup 119%
Rank 86 City Austin State Texas Restaurant Cost $21.71 Average Cost on Food Apps $35.59 Markup 64%
Rank 87 City Boise State Idaho Restaurant Cost $15.00 Average Cost on Food Apps $34.61 Markup 131%
Rank 88 City Tulsa State Oklahoma Restaurant Cost $16.06 Average Cost on Food Apps $34.58 Markup 115%
Rank 89 City El Paso State Texas Restaurant Cost $14.44 Average Cost on Food Apps $34.34 Markup 138%
Rank 90 City Houston State Texas Restaurant Cost $15.98 Average Cost on Food Apps $34.25 Markup 114%
Rank 91 City Lincoln State Nebraska Restaurant Cost $27.84 Average Cost on Food Apps $34.22 Markup 23%
Rank 92 City Cincinnati State Ohio Restaurant Cost $19.98 Average Cost on Food Apps $34.22 Markup 71%
Rank 93 City Irving State Texas Restaurant Cost $26.24 Average Cost on Food Apps $34.01 Markup 30%
Rank 94 City Garland State Texas Restaurant Cost $21.17 Average Cost on Food Apps $33.97 Markup 60%
Rank 95 City Fort Worth State Texas Restaurant Cost $15.23 Average Cost on Food Apps $33.64 Markup 121%
Rank 96 City Milwaukee State Wisconsin Restaurant Cost $15.40 Average Cost on Food Apps $33.46 Markup 117%
Rank 97 City Laredo State Texas Restaurant Cost $14.04 Average Cost on Food Apps $33.37 Markup 138%
Rank 98 City Toledo State Ohio Restaurant Cost $19.56 Average Cost on Food Apps $33.13 Markup 69%
Rank 99 City Albuquerque State New Mexico Restaurant Cost $14.32 Average Cost on Food Apps $32.25 Markup 125%
Rank 100 City Lubbock State Texas Restaurant Cost $15.08 Average Cost on Food Apps $31.40 Markup 108%

Which city is the cheapest for food delivery? 

For the same order, Lubbock, Texas, had the lowest price when using food delivery apps ($31.40). Less than a dollar behind Albuquerque, New Mexico, took the second-top spot at $32.25. Here are the top five cheapest cities in the U.S. for food delivery apps:

  1. Lubbock Texas ($31.40)
  2. Albuquerque, New Mexico ($32.25)
  3. Toledo, Ohio ($33.13)
  4. Laredo, Texas ($33.37)
  5. Milwaukee, Wisconsin ($33.46)

Food delivery app price markups 

While the outright cost gives us an idea of how expensive food delivery apps can be, it’s also important to consider the data in respect to the local area. To do this, the study compared the average price of using each food delivery app against the price of buying the same order directly from the restaurant (McDonald’s in this study). 

Which city has the highest markup on food delivery apps?

While Seattle charges the most for residents to get their hands on some fast food, Virginia Beach (VA) was found to have the highest percentage markup (184%) when comparing the price of buying directly from the restaurant against the full charges from food delivery apps.

In Virginia Beach, buying directly from McDonald’s would cost just $13.75, whereas the delivery apps charge 184% more totaling $39.12. Riverside, California, was the second-highest city for delivery app markups (176%), followed by Omaha Corpus Christi, Stockton City, which all had a markup of 168%.

Which city has the lowest markup on food delivery apps? 

Lincoln, Nebraska, has the lowest markup when using food delivery apps. On average, hungry customers in the city will only pay an extra 23% for the convenience of having food picked up and delivered. With introductory discounts and occasional 10% off codes, it could be a no-brainer for Lincoln locals to use those apps to claim food at similar prices to buying directly. 

Which food delivery app is the most expensive?

Uber Eats was found to be the most expensive food delivery app in the U.S. costing $41.16 for our order, 105.1% more than buying directly from the restaurant. Overall, it’s expected that by using food delivery apps, the average consumer pays 98.41% more than if they were to go to McDonald’s and buy directly.

Here is how the average markup changes when using different food delivery apps.

Average markup on food delivery apps:

GrubHub has a slightly lower markup percentage (94.8%), followed closely by DoorDash (95.3%) meaning these two apps are your best options when ordering food with no offers/codes implemented.

The most affordable option for food delivery is going to pick it up yourself, but if you are using an app, it’s likely going to be the one that has the best discount code for you at that time. Remember: the codes can be account-specific so someone else you live with may have discounts you aren’t able to use. 

Food Delivery App Order Cost Markup (%)
Uber Eats $ 41.17 105.1%
DoorDash $ 39.20 95.3%
GrubHub $ 39.09 94.8%

As our analysis focused exclusively on McDonald’s, the data should be reviewed with that in mind. McDonald’s is a large corporation that can afford to keep its markup lower than smaller businesses, consequently, the price increase for a local independent restaurant, for example, may be even higher. 

What charges do food delivery apps add? 

Here’s exactly how the apps broke down our order when compared to buying directly:

  UberEats GrubHub DoorDash Restaurant
Food* UberEats $26.06 GrubHub $25.96 DoorDash $25.48 Restaurant $18.63
Delivery fee UberEats $3.15 GrubHub $2.61 DoorDash $2.48 Restaurant -
Service fee UberEats $4.00 GrubHub $2.60 DoorDash $3.83 Restaurant -
Sales tax UberEats $2.24 GrubHub $2.42 DoorDash $2.10 Restaurant $1.44
Other costs** UberEats $0.35 GrubHub $0.41 DoorDash $0.20 Restaurant -
Tip (15%) UberEats $5.37 GrubHub $5.10 DoorDash $5.11 Restaurant -
Total UberEats $41.17 GrubHub $39.10 DoorDash $39.20 Restaurant $20.07
Markup UberEats 51.3% GrubHub 48.7% DoorDash 48.8% Restaurant

*10 McNugget meal, Quarter pounder regular meal, extra regular fries, extra regular Coca-Cola®
**Up to 36 cities had 'other' costs, this varied across the food delivery apps analyzed

While the price of food alone was 38.65% more on the food delivery apps, you also have to account for delivery fees, service fees, sales taxes, and in some cities other costs (such as gas surcharges, or small order fees). We also factored in a 15% tip for our delivery drivers, however, this is not technically mandatory. 

Overall, there are a lot of fees that go into the average 49.6% markup when using food delivery apps–you’re not just paying a courier to deliver your food. 

Ordering takeout vs cooking at home

Using prices from Walmart, we found that cooking the same order (measured by exact weight) would cost $9.16, around 54.36% cheaper than buying it from McDonald’s ($20.07).

This may not be that surprising as getting takeout is almost always going to be more expensive than making it yourself since you pay for the convenience of your food being prepared, cooked, and (in this study) delivered after all. 

If you are looking to save some money, it can help to think in terms of how many dollars you’re saving every time you don’t order takeout. Across a full year, these small lifestyle changes can add up, but also, it’s okay to treat yourself if you need it. If you changed a monthly McDonald’s to an at-home alternative, you could save $130.92 in one year while still eating the same food. 

Methodology

We took data from 100 McDonald’s restaurants in the largest 100 cities in the U.S. with an identical order every time. We placed orders via Uber Eats, Grubhub, and DoorDash all using the same restaurant locations and delivery points. All fees were recorded. No ‘new member’ discounts or offers were used or considered in the analysis.   

To get a range of goods and prices, the full list of products ordered were:

To try and keep orders consistent, the orders were placed in the same destination in each city on all three apps. On average the destination was kept to 2.5 miles from restaurant to destination, this varied by a margin of 0.3 miles where it was not possible to achieve 2.5 miles.

Prices were correct as of April 6, 2022. Data was collected between 5-7 p.m. across Mon-Thurs.

Individual McDonald’s restaurant pricing data came from PriceListo which verifies restaurants' prices in person through their network. 

At-home grocery prices were sourced from Walmart online on April 8, 2022. Costs were calculated based on the exact weight required to match the food delivery order. For example, 6 nuggets, equal to 6 McNuggets, were calculated at $0.11 per nugget from a larger bag.

Sources

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