When It Comes To Generating QSR Loyalty, Breakfast Is What Wins Visits

Brands like Starbucks, McDonald’s, Dunkin Donuts, Tim Hortons, Panera, and Taco Bell have each been expanding their morning offerings to maximize their share of wallet, says Foursquare's Steven Rosenblatt.

Foursquare’s first Quick Serve Restaurant Loyalty Index is out and the location intelligence provider’s measurement of foot-traffic confirms the idea that breakfast and coffee is the surest way to drive regular visits.

And while brands like McDonald’s often top QSR visitation surveys, such as the recent analysis by GroundTruth, by dint of its near-ubiquity in terms of outlets, Foursquare’s report, which is expected to be be released annually, shows that size isn’t everything when it comes to foot-traffic.

That said, Starbucks’ particular combination of quickness via mobile ordering, and the addition of breakfast items, put it on top of the Foursquare QSR Loyalty Index. Boston Market was at the opposite end, finishing at number 50.

“Changes are afoot in the quick service restaurant (QSR) industry: Chipotle just announced that it’s ditching chorizo; Dunkin Donuts may soon be just ‘Dunkin;’ Taco Bell has partnered with Lyft. Every brand is looking for increased market share in this nearly $200 billion dollar market, which is, according to Foursquare data, coming off its busiest time of year,” writes Foursquare President Steven Rosenblatt, in a blog post.

“But with so many options, and so much competition, diners are justifiably picky about where they go out to eat. So, we at Foursquare dug into our data to better understand which QSR chains are winning when it comes to customer loyalty, and more importantly, how,” Rosenblatt adds.

Foursquare’s QSR Loyalty Index 2017

Among the attributes Foursquare considered in its QSR Loyalty Index:

  • Visit frequency: the average number of visits per diner within a year.
  • Market penetration: the percentage of all QSR diners who visited the chain within a year. Penetration was only measured for regions in which the chain exists, so a midwest chain like Culver’s, for example, was not impacted for its regionality.
  • Share of Wallet: the percentage of the consumer’s total QSR visits that a particular chain captures within a year.
  • Fanaticism threshold: the number of visits within a year required for a customer to be within the top 1 percent of customers who visit a particular chain, on a scale of 1 to 50.

In terms of trends, regional brands like Whataburger (number 6) and The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf (number 8)  made it into the top 10, beating out much larger national competitors. “These brands have developed a loyal fanbase in their respective regions, luring customers back into stores with their own great service and loyalty rewards programs,” Rosenblatt says.

As for the breakfast wars among QSRs, Foursquare data shows that customers visit coffee shops more than any other type of restaurant.

“QSR food chains are taking notice and capitalizing on this trend by expanding the morning menu, allowing customers the opportunity to come in for an AM caffeine fix and a bite to eat, all in a convenient one-stop shop,” Roseblatt says. “Brands like Starbucks, McDonald’s, Dunkin Donuts, Tim Hortons, Panera, and Taco Bell have each been expanding their morning offerings to maximize their share of wallet.”

And despite the efforts of consumer protection advocates, healthy items are just not what QSR customers desire.

Despite QSR’s increased focus on healthy menu options, there is a limited correlation between healthy offerings and loyalty, a fairly obvious point to be sure.

“Chains in the top 20 specialize in everything from the indulgent, like burgers, tacos and fried chicken, to lighter fare options like sandwiches and salads. Jamba Juice (which falls at #32 on our list), with its fresh and nutritious juices, smoothies and bowls, ranked similarly to Cajun-style Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen,” Rosenblatt notes.

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.