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Rewards programs are long standing assets in the Quick Service Restaurants (QSR) industry. For many years, food and beverage chains, like Chipotle, Panera, and Starbucks have relied on such programs to drive promotions, build and retain market share, and keep their customers satisfied and returning.

Now, two QSR giants, Burger King and McDonald’s, are on the verge of launching their very own points programs. What changes would this entail for The King and Mickey D’s? How are they planning to roll out these changes? And how are they going beyond what conventional loyalty programs offer?

New Ways to Serve

In 2016, McDonald’s first announced their plans to add a points-based rewards program to their app. Now, about five years later, their testing of the program’s US version in Arizona and Nevada is entering its final phase. Roughly 900 branches are part of the test, and the company plans to officially launch the program nationwide by next year.

The program, dubbed MyMcDonald’s Rewards, gives members 100 points per dollar spent on purchases, with chances to earn multipliers for certain actions (e.g., double points for a Monday visit). Cash and mobile order payments allow customers to rack up points, with four tiers of redemption opportunities across 16 of their menu items.

Burger King just recently announced the testing phase of their own points-based rewards program in early February 2021. Named “Royal Perks”, BK’s customers accrue “crowns” whenever they place an order on the app or on their website. A dollar spent equals 10 crowns, which are redeemable on succeeding purchases across the Burger King menu.

BK’s VP of digital and loyalty Whitney Gretz says this shift is just “one step on a broader journey” to progress the company’s digital services. “We know that if customers engage with us digitally, we’ll get their data and will be able to provide more personalized, more convenient, more relevant offers. And each time they come back, their experiences get better and better,” she expounds.

Going Beyond the Average Rewards Program

But what makes Mickey D’s and BK’s points-based rewards program different from the others?

For McDonald’s, their loyalty program is not only for their customers, it’s for their employees, as well. McDonald’s workers and staff can also rack up points by completing training tasks and activities.

Alex Menendez, a Miami-based franchisee of McDonald’s and one of the overseers of the loyalty program test, said employee training around digital initiatives “has not been a priority in the past.” To remedy this, franchisees found a way to involve workers this time.

While not including employees, Burger King’s loyalty program may have some other competitive advantages.

As previously mentioned, more of the BK menu is available for crown redemption, compared to other companies that restrict rewards to chosen menu items only. Delivery orders, as long as they’re placed through the King’s app or website, count towards rewards, as well. They also have what they call the Birthday Reward, where guests earn double the crowns on BK purchases during their entire birthday month.

Lastly, members of their points-based rewards program are entitled to a free upsize of their drink, fries, or hash browns at least once daily, for every single purchase. “A big theme that our guests said is they want a benefit every single time,” says Gretz. “They wanted the equivalent of cutting the line at a hotel or airline. They don’t want to wait till they have enough points.”

What the Best Rewards Programs Entail

“It’s not a secret that we’re late in the game to loyalty,” Menendez says, “but I think from the operator side, we’ve been wanting to reward our loyal customers for years.”

And late they may be, but last they are not.

For one, the critical mass of these two huge players pretty much ensures the success of these adoptions, not to mention the time and resources they spent to research, test, and learn. Moreover, they waited for the right time when the level of sophistication and robustness of their digital infrastructures were enough to support engaging, app-based programs.

BK and McDonald’s points-per-dollar-spent programs, even in the testing phase, have adopted up-to-date, digital enhancements. With their points-based rewards program delivered via mobile app, customer adoption is easy. Furthermore, the QSRs increase their efficiency and provide data-based personalization faster.

Finally, McDonald’s inclusion of their employees and Burger King’s smorgasbord of benefits prove that there can always be more to rewards programs. Not only did they leverage advanced technologies and innovation, they also listened to what their customers wanted and what their employees needed.

McDonald’s addressed digital training for their employees while rewarding them at the same time. And Burger King provides what their customers want and more to elevate their BK experience. Their loyalty programs are not just “points-for-a-dollar” platforms: it’s where they connect and build relationships with their customers and their workers.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how you deliver the programs that drive emotional loyalty and brand engagement.

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