Food Industry

Are Apps Revolutionizing the Fast Food Customer Experience?

See how McDonald's and Starbucks are leading the way on innovating in their apps
Are Apps Revolutionizing the Fast Food Customer Experience?
Are Apps Revolutionizing the Fast Food Customer Experience?

The short answer, Yes!

Just look to McDonald's approach since introducing their app, and one of the pioneers of digital ordering, Starbucks.

Your favorite music artists are performing somewhere new. What’s the venue?

A fast food app.

Last summer, Camp McDonald’s featured exclusive concerts and merchandise for customers who ordered in the app. McCampers could watch a Kid Cudi live performance and even win a Grimace pool float. Quick-service restaurant chains are all-in on the digital customer experience.

Why create a dining experience inside of a smartphone app?

Digital orders now make up a third of average restaurant revenue - over 40% in a quick-service restaurant. A month-long lineup of discounted purchases brought guests back to the virtual dining room each day. The brand-themed prizes that came with their Big Mac replicated the draw of a Happy Meal.

Push notifications offering “6 free McNuggets when the Dodgers score 6 runs!” enable chains to meet customers where they are: on their phones.

How are McDonald’s customers responding to a change in their ordering process?  

127 million people worldwide downloaded the McDonald’s app in 2022. 64 million Americans have downloaded it since it launched in 2021. Billions of loyalty points have been redeemed for free menu items every day. Online ordering increases sales at every area of the restaurant: drive-thru, front counter, and delivery.

How did McDonald’s reach so many customers with its app?

Restaurant operations shifted to promote how the app saves guests time and money. Employees became digital hospitality ambassadors. FRED - McDonald’s online restaurant training platform - provided talking points on loyalty program benefits and download instructions.

The new demand causes a restaurant to utilize labor differently. A floor plan that typically calls for a front counter order taker now could move that person to a position monitoring a tablet and assembling digital orders.

What is happening to Starbucks’ loyalty program?

Starbucks Rewards drove 55% of the company’s revenue last quarter. Nearly 30 million people use the app. Members can earn either 1 or 2 two loyalty points - called stars - for every dollar they spend. Members earn double points when they pay with their Starbucks account

Beginning in February, tiers for the number of stars needed to redeem free items are going up:

  • 50 to 100
  • 100 to 150
  • 150 to 200.

Now customers will have to spend more to get a free pastry or handcrafted drink.

Starbucks Reserve

Why is Starbucks potentially reducing the incentive for repeat guests to use the fastest-growing area of its business?

“We occasionally need to make changes to ensure the long-term sustainability of the Starbucks Rewards program and to meet the changing needs of our members,” read a company statement.

Supply chain shortages continue to raise ingredient prices, as beans and milk have experienced double-digit inflation. Starbucks can’t afford to give away as much coffee - even to its regulars. There is a magic number of stars per menu item that ensures every store is providing discounts that continually generate profit with increased sales.

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