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Two of the largest fast food chains are launching loyalty rewards programs with the hopes of courting more digital orders

Two of the country’s biggest fast food chains, McDonald’s and Burger King, have announced new loyalty rewards programs as a way to encourage repeat customers, and to capitalize on the growing number of digital orders in the pandemic.

Burger King is unfortunately NOT testing the a reboot of the Burger King Kids Club, but is instead testing “Royalty Perks” in Los Angeles, Long Island, Miami, New Jersey and New York City. The program gives users 10 “crowns” for each dollar spent, which can then be used to get free menu items. “We’re going to test, refine, expand and learn,” said Whitney Gretz, vice president of digital and loyalty at Burger King, told Restaurant Business. “The goal is to keep adding features and markets.”

McDonald’s, which has loyalty programs in other countries, is testing a U.S. loyalty program in Nevada and Arizona, with plans to launch nationwide next year. Users will earn points, and also will be referred to by name when entering the drive-thru lane. McDonald’s employees will be able to earn loyalty points by completing trainings tied to the loyalty program, and it will all encourage the use of the McDonald’s app.

Chains like Starbucks and Chipotle have long thrived on loyalty programs, which Starbucks credits with helping it recover from the pandemic — the company’s rewards program grew by 2.5 million members in the past year, and members accounted for half of the company’s sales. The pandemic has led to more Americans than ever placing food orders digitally, so launching loyalty programs helps these chains ensure there are repeat customers.

But of course there is of course a catch. As Restaurant Business put it, “Such programs are increasingly important marketing tools for chains, which provide loyal customers with rewards and in exchange get more data than they receive from a typical customer — which enables them to tailor marketing and other messaging to that specific customer.” For instance, Starbucks has used the data gleaned from its millions of members to plan where to open new stores and to create personalized promotions, which in turn allow them to expand and attract even more customers. Just in case you thought you were getting those perks for nothing.

With McDonald’s and Burger King getting on board, it seems like loyalty programs are going to become the standard for chains, which will be yet another way — out of reach for most small businesses — for these large companies to entice customers.

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