More Than Half of Restaurant Customers Now Use Loyalty Programs

Restaurants’ efforts to drive loyalty adoption are working, with most consumers now engaged.

By the Numbers

Research from PYMNTS’ March study, “Connected Dining: Consumers Like the Taste of Discount Meals,” which is based on a February survey of more than 1,800 U.S. consumers, found that 51% reported using a restaurant loyalty program, with 49% participating in these programs at quick-service restaurants (QSRs) and 34% at full-service restaurants (FSRs).

This marks a significant increase from a year ago, when just 45% of consumers used restaurant loyalty programs — 43% at QSRs and 32% at FSRs.

When loyalty programs succeed and fail

The Context

Restaurants have been working hard to drive loyalty adoption.

Brinker International, owner of Chili’s Grill & Bar and Maggiano’s Little Italy, discussed the value of these programs in the current inflationary environment on the company’s last earnings call.

“[One] thing that we have that we didn’t have in the recession back in 2008 [that] several others have too [is] we have 12 million loyalty members, and we have a direct way to talk to them, and so we can target value a little bit sharper than we could back then,” CEO Kevin Hochman said.

Fast-casual giant Chipotle Mexican Grill made a similar observation on its last earnings call.

“In 2022, we increased our rewards members by 20% to 31.6 million,” Chipotle CEO Brian Niccol said on the call. “Our program continues to get more sophisticated as we better understand who our members are and serve them with relevant content, targeted offers and gamified badging to help drive transactions.”

Plus, this month alone, fast-casual chicken chain El Pollo Loco announced that it has relaunched its loyalty app with a new, tiered structure, and Noodles & Company shared that it is updating its Noodles Rewards program to make perks available daily to drive customer frequency.