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Published By Upzaar Team

How these Popular Fast Food Brands Use Loyalty Programs to Retain Customers

Chick-Fil-A, McDonald's, and Chipotle are three of the biggest restaurants that have some of the most well-known loyalty programs in the U.S. So how do these programs work, and just how successful are they?

In a world that is rapidly changing and becoming more digital, the need to stay innovative and learn from the competition is crucial. At this point, it is not even a secret that having a rewards program for your business is as essential as having a logo, especially for restaurants. Loyalty programs are great tools for growing your customer base, boosting consumer spending, and expanding customer interaction options. They also improve customer retention, which can aid businesses in generating income, boosting referrals, and achieving overall growth. In contrast to revenue from new customers, current customers typically provide most of an organization’s revenue. Let’s explore some of the most popular loyalty programs for restaurants, how they work, and how they are successful.


1. Chick-Fil-A

S. Truett Cathy founded Chick-Fil-A on May 23, 1946. It first opened in Hapeville, Georgia, U.S. Chick-Fil-A is one of the largest fast-food chains specializing in chicken sandwiches in the United States. The company is headquartered in College Park, Georgia. The business currently operates in 47 states and the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Hawaii, running 2818 branches. The company also has some operations in Canada and had previously operated in the United Kingdom and South Africa. The restaurant serves menus from breakfast to dinner.

Chick-Fil-A’s loyalty program is considered a Tiered program. Unlike more traditional earn-and-burn programs or stamp-based ones, a tiered loyalty program requires you to earn a certain amount of points to be an active member of a specific tier. In Chick-fil-A’s program, you receive points for every dollar spent. The higher you are on the tiers, the more points you will receive per dollar paid. Once you have earned enough points, you will be eligible to redeem rewards, and at Silver status, you can gift those rewards to friends and family.

The Loyalty Program: Chick-fil-A One®

The Tiers

Chick-fil-A One® has four membership tiers: Chick-fil-A One Member, Chick-fil-A One Silver Member, Chick-fil-A One Red Member, and Chick-fil-A One Signature Member. Members receive points with every qualifying purchase. Once they reach a certain number of points, customers progress to the next tier. Member tier status is determined annually, and a member must meet the requirements for a particular tier status each year, or the status will not be maintained. So, each year, a member has until December 31st to reach or maintain status. On January 1st, points toward tier status will reset to zero.

1. Chick-Fil-A One Member

‣ Every member’s starting point.

‣ For every dollar spent, members will receive 10 points.

‣ Birthday reward.

2. Chick-Fil-A One Silver Member

‣ For every dollar spent, members will receive 11 points.

‣ Birthday reward.

‣ You can now gift rewards to friends and family.

3. Chick-fil-A One Red Member

‣ For every dollar spent, members will receive 12 points.

‣ Birthday reward.

‣ You can gift rewards to friends and family.

‣ Get exclusive rewards.

‣ First to get notified about new items and insider content.

4. Chick-fil-A One Signature Member

‣ For every dollar spent, members will receive 13 points.

‣ Birthday reward.

‣ You can gift rewards to friends and family.

‣ Exclusive rewards.

‣ First to get notified about new items and insider content.

‣ Access to unique experiences.

"We do not have the precise number of members of Chick-fil-A's loyalty program but the most recent report from Digiday in 2017 showed that their program boasts 13 million active members. The number surely is now even higher."


2. McDonald’s

Founded in San Bernardino, California, on May 15, 1940, by Richard and Maurice McDonald, McDonald’s is perhaps the most popular fast-food chain in the world. By revenue, it is the world’s largest restaurant, amassing 23.2 billion U.S. dollars in 2021, serving in 119+ countries and serving over 70 million customers. In 2018, McDonald’s had 27,855 outlets with 1.7 million employees.

Customers receive 100 points for every $1 spent on McDonald’s items. The points can then be redeemed for free meals. Customers will have more valuable prizes the higher their tier. They can get into higher tiers by collecting more points.

The Loyalty Program: MyMcDonald’s Rewards®

Four points-based tiers make up the program:

When you earn 1500 points, you will be eligible to choose between a free McChicken (Regular or Hot N’ Spicy), a Hash Brown, a Vanilla Cone, or their classic Cheeseburger.

With 3000 Points, you can pick between medium Fries, a Sausage Burrito, a 6-piece Chicken McNuggets, or a sizeable Iced Coffee.

Once you reach 4500 points, you will be eligible for one of the following: a large Fries, a large Frappé, a Filet-O-Fish, or a Sausage McMuffin with Egg.

Finally, with 6000 points, you can choose between a Big Mac, a Quarter Pounder with Cheese, Happy Meal, or Bacon, Egg & Cheese Biscuit.

You will also receive 1500 extra points when you add your credit or debit card to the McDonald’s mobile app. So, if you choose to pay through the app, you will receive a complimentary McChicken sandwich or a traditional Cheeseburger. Currently, however, members cannot share their points or their rewards, and points expire six months after they are earned.

MyMcDonald’s Rewards reached 20 million users in 2021. The most popular reward was the famous McChicken sandwich. 360 tons of fries and 17 million desserts were rewarded to users. McDonald’s rewards program is simple, straightforward, and easy to use, making it one of the most popular loyalty programs.


3. Chipotle

Chipotle Mexican Grill, famously known as just Chipotle, was founded on July 13, 1993, by Steve Ellis. Specializing in bowls, tacos, and Mission burritos prepared to order in front of the customer, Chipotle is an American chain of fast-casual restaurants located in the U.S, UK, Canada, Germany, and France. It gets its name from the Nahuatl word chipotle, which refers to a smoked and dried jalapeno chili pepper. As of 2021, however, it has 2,966 locations.

The Loyalty Program: Chipotle Rewards®

How It Works

Customers can use the reward program at Chipotle to redeem their points for free guacamole, drinks, and food. Diners can also use their points to donate to charities that help communities, farmers, and other causes.

Each dollar spent at the restaurant, online, or through the app earns Chipotle Rewards members 10 points. 1,250 points will get you a free meal.

An order of chips costs only 250 points, a side of guacamole 400 points, and a bottle of soda is 600 points under the new Rewards Exchange.

A kids’ lunch costs 900 points, a quesadilla is 1,350 points, and $20 worth of Chipotle goods are additional choices. Customers who accumulate 8,750 points can purchase $35 worth of Chipotle goods.

Before the pandemic started in February 2020, Chipotle had 8.5 million reward members. The chain has recently engaged in new relationships that enabled it to use the information from its rewards club for targeted marketing campaigns. But Chipotle almost doubled the number of its reward members during the outbreak. Even when its dining rooms reopen, the chain claims that approximately 80% of its internet revenue is steady. You can learn more about the loyalty program by reading our Chipotle Loyalty Program article.

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