This Could Be Why Fast Food Apps Are More Popular Than Ever

It's right there in the name: fast food. And, for a long time, it was hard to imagine it could get any faster. Drive through or walk in, and your food is ready for you in a matter of minutes, according to the Today Show. We are, though, an app happy society. Buildfire reports that 49% of Americans open an app over 11 times per day, and 70% of all digital media is consumed via apps. It was only a matter of time before fast food restaurants — known in the industry as quick-service restaurants – moved into the space and created apps that would make the customer experience even faster.

Fast food apps offer customers a streamlined experience, options to customize an order, and access to digital-only deals and giveaways, says The Takeout. Restaurants, on the other hand, get access to valuable customer data and insights and new avenues of marketing, reports the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. New data compiled by QSR Magazine, an industry trade publication, shows that quick-service restaurant tech is only increasing in popularity, with July 2022 being the biggest month on record for first-time downloads of the top 36 apps.

Downloading deals

Topping the list of most-downloaded apps is McDonald's, with 4.3 million downloads in July. This was followed by Starbucks, Domino's, SONIC, and Chick-Fil-A to round out the top 5.

Why are these apps exploding in popularity? Adam Blacker, the vice president of Insights at Apptopia, the company that compiled the data for QSR, points to the many incentives and promotions being offered by quick-service restaurant chains. Those include McDonald's National Fry Day offer, which Insider explains gave customers using the app a free large order of fries on July 13th. For its part, Starbucks slashed cold drink prices by 50% on Tuesdays in July for those using its proprietary app, states Delish.

What was once seen as supplemental income to a restaurant's traditional in-person business model, digital sales are increasingly becoming a critical income stream for both quick-service and full-service restaurants. An analysis by found that 37% of high-earning restaurants — those with more than $1 million in annual revenue — derive 50% or more of their business from digital channels.

And this is not just an American phenomenon. Adweek recently covered the accelerated growth of both the apps for McDonald's and Burger King in the U.K. Of note is McDonald's loyalty program that credits a point per penny spent to customers' accounts, which can be redeemed for menu items or donated to charities, such as the Ronald McDonald House.