By Leslie Albrecht, MarketWatch
They’re both billionaires with a taste for the Golden Arches, but their similarities end there.
President Donald Trump and billionaire investor Warren Buffett both eat regularly at McDonald’s /zigman2/quotes/203508018/composite MCD -0.82% , and their menu choices seem to mirror their vastly different approaches to business.
“ Let Trump Be Trump ,” the campaign tell-all by former Trump staffers Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie, reports that, while campaigning for president, Trump routinely ordered a McDonald’s dinner of “two Big Macs, two Filet-O-Fish, and a chocolate malted.” McDonald’s prices vary by region; that meal would cost $23.91 at a McDonald’s in New York, according to one online calculator.
Trump consumed the entire meal himself, but Lewandowski told CNN this week that Trump never ate the sandwiches’ buns, so Lewandowski didn’t worry about the meal’s nutritional impact.
The calorie-laden feasts aboard “Trump Force One” stand in sharp contrast to Buffett’s trips to the McDonald’s drive-through window. The “Oracle of Omaha” tailors his breakfast order according to how the market is doing that day, according to the HBO documentary “Becoming Warren Buffett.” If the market’s down, Buffett opts for the $2.95 sausage McMuffin instead of the $3.17 bacon egg and cheese biscuit.
“I tell my wife, as I shave in the morning, I say, ‘Either $2.61, $2.95 or $3.17.’ And she puts that amount in the little cup by me here [in the car],” Buffett said in the documentary .
Though Trump, 71, is now the more widely known billionaire, his estimated fortune of $3.1 billion pales in comparison to Buffett’s projected net worth of $73.9 billion .
The reasons for Trump and Buffett’s sharply contrasting wealth may be found in their daily habits.
Buffett methodically analyzes companies to find under-valued stocks and regularly touts low-cost index funds. So the detail-oriented penny-pinching at McDonald’s seems to be in line with his investing philosophy.
Meanwhile, Trump’s over-the-top dinner seems to reflect his impulsive nature and an appetite for risk. Eating 2,430 calories and 111 grams of fat in one sitting could be considered a health gamble for someone like Trump, who doesn’t exercise . One could argue that the meal choice parallels Trump’s high-stakes maneuverings in the world of New York real estate and casinos.
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But Victor Ricciardi, a finance professor at Goucher College, and co-editor of the book “Financial Behavior: Players, Services, Products, and Markets,” says Trump’s “risky” fast food dinner doesn’t seem to follow his more recent business strategies.
In recent years Trump has pursued a more lucrative strategy of building a global brand.
“His eating habits don’t tie in with his investment philosophies,” Ricciardi said. “In the 1990s he nearly went bankrupt and the lesson he learned was he took on all the risk himself.” Since then, he diversified, lent his brand to buildings and other products, and taken on third party investors. “It seems like maybe he learned his lesson in the past.”
Trump helped promote his brand, and McDonald’s, in an early 2000s TV ad for the fast food chain’s value menu.
Ricciardi also noted that there’s generally a relationship between mood and risk . The better mood you’re in, the more likely you are to engage in risky behavior, and vice versa. So perhaps Trump’s big dinner orders during the campaign were a reflection of campaign’s rising momentum.
McDonald’s was in heavy rotation on Trump’s campaign plane, along with KFC /zigman2/quotes/209029767/composite YUM -0.20% and pizza, according to “Let Trump Be Trump.” The book also reveals that Trump has a taste for Oreos, but will only eat them from an unopened package because of his fear of germs.
Buffett, 87, also likes junk food, and once said he eats like a six-year-old, often pairing Utz potato sticks with Coca-Cola.
Coke /zigman2/quotes/209159848/composite KO -2.57% is one area where Buffett and Trump seem to share common ground. Trump washes his McDonald’s meals down with Diet Coke, and Buffett has said he gulps down several Cokes daily. Of course when he does that, he’s helping his own bottom line. Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway /zigman2/quotes/200060694/composite BRK.B -1.32% owns about a 9% stake in Coca-Cola . Good news for non-billionaires who want to eat like Trump and Buffett: McDonald’s is launching a new value menu next month featuring $1, $2 and $3 items.