In 2021, with the popularity of chicken sandwiches through delivery channels, restaurants raced to capture consumers’ digital spending with the so-called chicken sandwich wars. Now, in 2022, the race has shifted to the rewards space, with restaurants competing to offer the most appealing and habit-building loyalty programs.
Quick-service restaurant (QSR) chain Burger King, which has over 18,700 locations across more than 100 countries, announced Monday (April 25) that it is offering free fries each week for the rest of the year to all members of Burger King Royal Perks, the brand’s U.S. loyalty program.
“Since announcing the rollout of our loyalty program last September, Royal Perks is now available in nearly every Burger King restaurant nationwide,” Tom Curtis, president of Burger King North America, said in a statement. “Enhancing the digital guest experience continues to be a major focus for our brand, and we’re confident this latest offer will attract even more loyal fans, while rewarding our existing members.”
Specifically, customers can redeem one free order of fries per week until the year’s end for pickup orders placed through the company’s website or app. This condition makes the promotion not only a way for the company to drive loyalty adoption, but also to encourage consumers to order through channels that are more profitable for the brand, given the high cost of delivery.
Additionally, with the once-a-week stipulation, the company creates an incentive for consumers to engage with the brand on a regular basis. In that way, the promotion mirrors another strategy that has been growing more common throughout 2022: the restaurant subscription.
QSR chain Taco Bell and fast-casual brand Sweetgreen have both run limited-time subscription programs this year, and Smoothie King announced a subscription program earlier this month.
Panera Bread announced Tuesday (April 19) that it is adding new beverages to and increasing the price of its subscription program, rebranding it as “Unlimited Sip Club.”
See more: Panera Expands Its Beverage Subscription
Research from PYMNTS’ February/March study “Digital Divide: Restaurant Subscribers and Loyalty Programs,” created in collaboration with Paytronix, found that 17% of consumers who are not currently members of any restaurant subscription services are “very” or “extremely” interested subscribing in the future, and 42% are curious about them.
Moreover, incentivizing regular engagement significantly increases loyalty. In the study, which drew from a December survey of more than 2,000 U.S. adults, about eight in 10 restaurant subscribers reported being “very” or “extremely” loyal to their favorite full-service restaurants (FSRs) and QSRs, a share well above the 59% of the overall population that said the same for FSRs and the 55% for QSRs.
More restaurant brands have been rolling out loyalty programs throughout the year, looking to offer differentiated rewards to compete with the wide range of options to which consumers have access. Some have been announcing digital-only menu items, others have been offering crypto rewards to capture the buzz around digital currency, and others have been leveraging elements of surprise and delight to drive engagement.