Abandoned McDonald’s On Alaskan Island Reveals 1994 Prices

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When a photographer traveled to Adak Island, Alaska, he discovered an abandoned McDonald’s. As he explored the property, he found that the fast-food chain’s drive-thru menu hadn’t been touched since 1994, leaving the shockingly low prices frozen in time. Who remembers when prices were this good?

The drive-thru menu at the abandoned Adak Island McDonald’s in Alaska has sat untouched since 1994. (Photo Credit: Screenshot)

Chris Luckhardt, a photographer who has spent decades documenting some of the most iconic and viral images of abandoned places around the world, traveled to Adak Island to explore its abandoned US military base. On the remote Alaskan island in the North Pacific Ocean, he discovered a McDonald’s that closed in 1994 as the Navy gradually decommissioned the base, leaving the building frozen in time.

More than 6,000 people lived on the base at its peak in the 1980s, with the McDonald’s restaurant in question opening in July 1986, according to Luckhardt’s YouTube channel. Sadly, the base closed in March 1997, leaving most of the buildings abandoned. According to Luckhardt, Adak Island had only 33 permanent residents when he visited. However, the World Population Review quoted Adak Island’s 2024 population as 154 and declining. Either way, the island is far from the city it once was.

Although the whole establishment appeared to be in the same state it was in when it was abandoned in the 90s, it comes as no surprise that the drive-thru menu quickly drew Luckhardt’s attention. Sitting untouched since 1994, the menu revealed the shockingly low prices of the time, including 6-piece chicken nuggets for only $2.35, a Big Mac for $2.45, a Big Mac meal for $4.59, a Happy Meal for just $3.36, an egg McMuffin for a meager $1.95, and a milkshake for $1.50. Only have pocket change? That’s ok. A cup of hot chocolate was a mere 75 cents.

In addition to the low prices, the menu advertised “dino-size fries” for sale, which the NY Post reported was “potentially a tie-in to the 1993 ‘Jurassic Park’ movie. In addition, the menu revealed that Happy Meals at the time contained a toy inspired by “Bobby’s World,” an animated series that aired from 1990 to 1998. But what people really want to know is: how do the prices compare to today?

The answer to that is a little complicated since franchise owners are also free to set their own prices, as the McDonald’s corporate website has noted. “McDonald’s prices vary by location,” the website explains. “Ninety percent of McDonald’s restaurants are independently owned and operated by franchisees, who have the ability to set their own prices.”

However, regardless of where you live, you’ve likely seen a price hike at your local McDonald’s as the once budget-friendly fast-food option has come under scrutiny for no longer being “cheap” as combo meal prices have reportedly approached $20. That $4.59 Big Mac meal from 1994, which includes a burger, fries, and a drink, is now $18 in some locations.

Adak Island
The Adak Island McDonald’s offered a Big Mac meal for $4.59 in 1994, with the same meal costing $18 in some locations in 2024. (Photo Credit: Screenshot)

Of course, many factors can influence prices, and as we know, many of them have recently resulted in price hikes. “The price of the items sold at McDonald’s have to do with inflation,” David Klyman, a financial strategist at Klyman Financial, told HuffPost before adding, “but also commercial property prices, gas prices, interest rates, car prices, health insurance cost, flight costs since you have to fly foods around the country, and more.” However, it’s worth mentioning that McDonald’s admitted to “strategic menu price increases” as revenue soared at the end of 2023.

So, with everything from inflation to regional economic factors such as minimum wage, property taxes, cost of rent, and other goods, as well as “strategic” increases and franchisee’s discretion affecting prices, how do the jaw-dropping 1994 prices really compare to today? There’s a tool for that! It’s called the McCheapest tool, and it was created by British marketing executive Sacha Fournier to collect different McDonald’s price points across America.

Adak Island
The priciest item on this side of the menu board was a “Big Breakfast” for $2.95. Everything else listed is under $2. (Photo Credit: Screenshot)

As of February 2024, the cheapest Big Mac could be found in Stigler, Oklahoma, for $3.49, according to the McCheapest tool. That’s a $1.04 increase from 1994, and while that might not sound like a lot to us today, that could have gotten you a drink, a Danish, an order of hashbrowns, or even a hamburger—with change left over—at the Adak Island McDonald’s in 1994. What’s more, I could not spot a single item over $5.70—and for that, you got a 20-piece chicken nugget in 1994. However, you won’t get much for under $6 today at any fast-food joint.

Are lower-cost food options a thing of the past? As the abandoned Adak Island McDonald’s drive-thru menu proves, cheap burgers aren’t so far behind us. This offers little comfort as we look forward. If the cost of food in the ’90s made your jaw drop, just consider what prices might look like in another 3o years if we continue on the same trajectory we have been on for the last three decades. I don’t know about you, but as someone who will hopefully be retired and on a fixed income, that’s a frightening thought.