That’s A Bit Of A Trick Question, Actually
McDonald’s no longer operates in Iceland, but Icelanders have access to the Heimsborgari – a virtually identical product offered by Metro Burgers, a company founded by a former Golden Arches’ franchisee.
As of August 2022, the equivalent to a Big Mac combo meal costs 1,999 Icelandic krónur, which comes to around $14–plus or minus say, 15%, depending on the exchange rate.
That’s anywhere between 39% and 87% more than a Big Mac combo meal ordered through Uber Eats in Miami, Los Angeles, or Waikiki.
According to Food & Wine, Business Insider reports that McDonald’s has delivery prices 19.6% higher than for takeout or dining in.
This doesn’t exactly match my own observations here in Tokyo, where the differential appears to be ‘only’ around 13% for Uber Eats, indicating a certain level of variability in terms of how much delivery apps operating in different countries tack on to customers’ orders.
Nevertheless, and to put things into perspective, ECA International ranks Tokyo as the fifth most expensive city in the world for expats, and yet one can order a Big Mac combo on Uber Eats for the affordable price of around $6.
That’s less than half of what consumers in Iceland pay through Aha.is, a local food and groceries delivery service that has been around since 2011.
Meet Iceland’s Answer To The Big Mac – The Metro Heimsborgari
McDonald’s left the country in 2009, so, as of 2022, the most direct way for Icelandic consumers to get their hands on this iconic sandwich is to travel to nearby Norway or Scotland, where the closest McDonald’s restaurants are located.
A more practical solution for those with cravings for Ronald McDonald’s flagship burger is to head over to Metro Borgari (Metro Burgers).
From the order counter to the packaging, Metro–founded by former McDonald’s franchisee Magnus Ogmundsson–offers a rather faithful facsimile of one of the United States’ most successful cultural exports, sans the universally identifiable golden arches and the use of the color red.
Looking at their online order page, you’d be forgiven for mistaking Metro’s Heimsborgari (World/Cosmopolitan burger) for the Big Mac. Even the ‘Happy Meal’ boxes and children’s play area are a close match.
Still Some Of The Most Expensive Fast Food In The World
McDonald’s famously left Iceland due to rising costs resulting from the depreciation of the island nation’s currency.
According to a contemporary article published in The Sydney Morning Herald, the franchise owner was contractually obligated to import the ingredients for its products, rather than reaching out to local suppliers offering more affordable prices.
In light of this, rather than jacking up prices by as much as 20% to offset rising costs, Mr. Ogmundsson decided to fold the business, re-brand, and restart operations under the new Metro brand, capitalizing on locally-sourced ingredients.
Thirteen years later, to burger aficionados, this proposed 20% price hike that marked the genesis of Metro Burgers now seems like a bargain deal.
Indeed, with the Heimsborgari (just the sandwich) now costing a whopping 1,359 krónur (close to $10) through Aha.is, the 780 krónur mentioned in contemporaneous articles seems rather reasonable.
Cosmopolitan prices for a cosmopolitan burger, indeed!
Turns Out All Fast Food Is Very Expensive In Iceland
Not even Domino’s Pizza–the undisputed leader of the Icelandic fast food industry, boasting a market share of 37.6%–can afford to keep prices low.
Indeed, even their most basic pizza will set customers back 2,690 krónur, or the equivalent of around $19. More savory choices like the ‘T-Rex,’ a pizza topped with bacon crumble, minced beef, and BBQ sauce, command a premium, and easily cross the 4,000 krónur ($28+) mark.
Such steep prices are virtually unheard of in the U.S. and Western Europe, and rival those found in my own backyard of Tokyo, Japan, where ordering Domino’s is usually only done very sporadically, and primarily in the context of family and work get-togethers.
Granted, pizza tends to be seen universally as a social dish meant to be shared among friends and family, but the exorbitant price tag most likely does indeed act as a deterrent to the greasy indulgence that is Domino’s Pizza.
Indeed, two people can dine reasonably well at one of the Japanese capital’s many Italian restaurants for under 5,000 yen ($35 – $50 depending on the exchange rate), which is a lower-bound estimate of how much it costs to order Domino’s.
It would seem this dynamic is at play in Iceland, as well, as local pizzerias offer better food and a more immersive dining ambiance for a price only slightly exceeding that of a Domino’s delivery pizza.
The same applies to the burger scene, with more discerning gourmets ditching the Heimsborgari for celebrity chef Tommi Tómasson’s “offer of the century” hamburger combo meal.
You see, Tommi Tómasson is the founder of Tommi’s Burger Joint (TBJ), a diner-style hamburger chain that has acquired a cult following in Europe (and indeed around the world).
The Icelandic equivalent of chef Gordon Ramsay, Tómasson prides himself in the use of fresh, quality ingredients, making TBJ’s product proposition an attractive alternative to brands like McDonald’s or Burger King, both of which threw in the towel in the wake of the Great Financial Crisis.
Alongside its “offer of the century,” consisting of a classic burger with a side of french fries and Coca-Cola, TBJ allows customers to customize their burgers with an assortment of sauces, and provides free coffee.
While the menu’s name does indeed verge on the hyperbolic, I like the focus on fresh ingredients, and the wide variety of sources on offer opens up an avenue for customization. Free drink refills are a feature of U.S. fast food establishments I would like to see replicated worldwide, so free coffee is definitely a welcome perk.
– Metro Borgari menu: 1,999 ISK = $12.50 – $16.80;
Uber Eats app (dinner) Miami, 36th/22nd ($7.79): 38% – 54% cheaper in the U.S.;
Los Angeles, L/A-Figueroa ($8.99): 28% – 46% cheaper in the U.S.;
Hawaii, 2237 KUHIO AVE ($10.19): 18% – 39% cheaper in the U.S.;
Average of the 3 locations listed above: $8.99 (28% – 46% cheaper in the U.S.)
– Uber Eats Tokyo app / McDonald’s Japan website (Big Mac combo meal: 780/690 yen, respectively)
– Pomranz, Mike; FOOD & WINE – If Your Fast Food Order Seems […]; 07/28/2020
– DINE OUT Magazine – The Icelandic ‘King of Burgers’; 03/28/2022
– YouTube – The Man Who Drove McDonald’s out of Iceland