EXPLAINER: Why do some Omaha chains charge different prices for similar products?

Prices in restaurants, grocery stores vary depending on location — even if it’s the same chain
Food prices can vary across the metro
Published: Nov. 29, 2022 at 5:09 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - It started with really wanting an Oreo McFlurry.

On a hunt for a working ice cream machine, 6 News noticed some McDonald’s were charging more for the treat than others.

So 6 News set out to determine whether there was a pattern and other price variations in Omaha.

“I would think all McDonalds have the same prices, especially in the same city. And not different prices around the local town,” said customer Michael Williams as he munched on his Big Mac meal for lunch.

He had no idea his burger cost more in West Omaha than downtown.

I made an order online for a family of four and it was more than $4 more expensive at the 144th and W. Center Rd. McDonald’s than the 24th and Cuming St. location.

“It adds up. For a family meal, you could go and spend about $20, $30, as you would even in the grocery store. Everything is up in price,” said Williams.

The app does let you know that different locations may charge different amounts.

6 News asked Mcdonald’s why that is, and they said each store determines its own prices.

Josh Planos with the BBB explains: “It’s not price gouging in the legal sense,” said Planos. “Competition, cost of rent, all of that contributes to price fluctuations, even within the same chain.”

We also found price differences at the grocery store.

At the Central Omaha Hy-Vee, milk, bread, and chicken were more expensive than the Hy-Vee out west near 178th Street.

Economist Dr. Ernie Goss from Creighton University explained a factor in the pricing.

“There are fewer grocery stores in the downtown area than what you see in west Omaha, so you’re likely going to have more competition,” said Goss. “Big ticket items, you’re going to see a greater homogeneity in pricing, simply because people are going to drive further distances.”

Although Williams said he wouldn’t go out of his way for cheaper McDonald’s, he might grab a bite before coming home to West Omaha.

“I would definitely go somewhere where it’s cheaper at. In the city to go get Mcdonald’s if I’m around the area. I wouldn’t go out of my way, but definitely affects the pockets.”

To know what you’re spending, a Hy-Vee spokesperson recommended shopping the chain-wide deals found on their app or newsletter. Those are prices you should find at all Hy-Vee stores.