Location intelligence business Foursquare recently did a deep data dive on customer loyalty, using fast food foot traffic patterns from millions of Americans to learn which brands get the most visits. This allowed the researchers to measure loyalty based on the only thing that ultimately really matters, the actions of customers.
The results of the research are compiled in the first QSR Loyalty Index. The index distills various consumer behaviors and inputs for the nation's top 50 QSR chains to derive a single loyalty metric, allowing cross-category and cross-chain comparisons.
The company said in a blog about the index that the result is a "highly accurate measure of business health as well as a comprehensive understanding of consumer segmentation."
Here are the results from the first QSR Loyalty Index:
- McDonald's (up from last year)
- Dunkin' Donuts (down)
- Tim Hortons
- The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf
- Taco Bell (up)
- Bojangles (up)
- Chipotle (up)
- Subway (down)
- In-N-Out Burger
- Bruegger's (down)
- Jack in the Box
- Burger King (up)
- Del Taco (up)
- Culver's (down)
Loyalty leads the leaders
Topping the list are Starbucks and McDonald's, chains renowned for their loyalty programs. Both brands are ubiquitous across the country and are focused on providing the convenience, service and product quality that consumers demand, the FourSquare blog said.
But size isn't everything, according to the data company. Regional brands like Whataburger and The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf fill top 10 slots ahead of other larger chains. Loyalty is key to the success of smaller brands engaged in the vital task of building a local fan base.
The research also indicates that coffee shops are visited more frequently than any other restaurant sector, an observation reinforced by the increased emphasis brands are putting on breakfast.
Top 20 brands Starbucks, McDonald’s, Dunkin Donuts, Tim Hortons, Panera and Taco Bell have all boosted their morning menu in response to consumer demand, and the research shows that they are being rewarded for their efforts, the study showed.
And then there's that "health thing." Though this aspect of fast food is creating a lot of buzz, the index data shows a "limited correlation between healthy offerings and loyalty," the company's blog said. In fact, Top 20 brands carry a little bit of everything on their menus from deep fried foods to lighter salad and sandwich fare.
Some study background
Four foot traffic metrics were used to determine loyalty winners and losers, the brand told QSR Web. These include:
- Visit frequency, the average number of visits per location per year.
- Market penetration, the number of diners visiting the QSR in its region per year.
- Share of wallet, the percentage of consumers' total QSR visits per chain per year.
- Fanaticism threshold, the number of annual visits required for a customer to be in the chain's top 1 percent of visitors.
Foot traffic data for the study was gathered over the past year from active users of Foursquare City Guide or Foursquare Swarm apps who opted to provide background location awareness and visited at least one of the analyzed chains between July 2016 and June 2017.