Complying with the Affordable Care Act will cost as much as $420 million annually, McDonald’s CFO Peter Bensen said during a conference call Monday, according to CFO Journal. And when the new law goes fully into effect in 2014, it’s possible menu prices will be raised to cover the health costs.
But experts say the price hikes could extend beyond chicken McNuggets. Some analysts believe companies may use health care as an excuse to raise prices, even if the added costs don’t warrant the increase. Peter Saleh, a restaurant analyst at Telsey Advisory Group, expects sit-down diners at restaurants like The Olive Garden, owned by Darden Restaurants (DRI), and The Cheesecake Factory (CAKE), which own a greater proportion of their locations than some fast food chains, to eventually pay at least 2% more to eat there. But Saleh says it’s too soon to know how the companies will cope with the new mandates: “A lot of them at this point aren’t willing to give us estimates about it.”