Clock icon 16 min read Calendar icon Jun 5, 2024

7 Examples of QSR Loyalty Programs and Promotions to Boost Customer Engagement


There were over 749,404 restaurants across the United States in 2023. Almost one-quarter of those (195,507) are Quick-Service Restaurants (QSRs). QSR restaurants, also known as “take-out” or “fast food,” are popular among consumers - 50 million Americans eat fast food daily. These restaurants serve an affordable limited menu, typically through counter or drive-through service. Some have seating, but very limited service. In the U.S., QSRs are extremely popular, with the industry exceeding $349 billion in value in the US in 2023. Competition is high, and along with heavy investment in mobile apps and online ordering, QSRs implement marketing strategies that focus on driving orders and building brand loyalty.

QSR Marketing Strategies

Quick service restaurants have a number of marketing strategies they can use to win and retain customers. Some of these include:

  • Instore marketing through kiosks that offer additional promotions and dynamic display ads.
  • Social media marketing, including working with influencers on contests and giveaways.
  • Online advertising, particularly with sites like Yelp and Google.
  • Email and SMS marketing, offering discounts, and early notification of new offers and deals.
  • Proximity (or beacon) marketing using GPS and RFID technology.
  • Partnering with local charities.

Many of these strategies are combined with a loyalty program. In fact, it would be unusual to find a QSR today without some kind of loyalty (or rewards) program. As a key part of loyalty programs, quick-service restaurants also offer special promotions that drive sign-ups and engagement.

Loyalty programs encourage customers to sign up to earn rewards or get special deals. Most loyalty programs are points-based (there are some exceptions), but how those points are earned and what you can redeem them for differs among restaurants. Every time a customer makes a purchase and scans their loyalty app (or rewards card), the brand is capturing information about that customer and their purchase habits. This information helps the brand improve its menu and service and provides valuable insights into what promotions and rewards work best.  

Let's take a look at seven loyalty program examples for QSR brands. In most cases,promotions were a key part of the loyalty program and help drive more program registrations.

7 Examples of QSR Loyalty and Promotion Programs That Work

Tim Hortons Goes Digital with “Roll Up The Rim”

Tim Hortons is a coffee and restaurant chain based in Canada. It’s well known for its yearly contest - Roll Up the Rim. Until 2020, Roll Up the Rim consisted of paper coffee cups you rolled up the rim on to see if you were a winner. In the interest of public health (thanks COVID), the contest shifted to digital and came with some new rules. 

The contest, which runs for four weeks, has been extended from hot coffee to include other drinks and food items, including breakfast and lunch sandwiches. You earn a roll for each eligible item purchased.

To participate in the contest, you must be enrolled in Tim Rewards, Tim Horton's loyalty program. You collect your rolls using either the Rewards mobile app or the Rewards loyalty card when you purchase an item. Along with earning points for purchases, you can also win bonus points by using the Tim Hortons Mastercard. 


Every roll on the app (or website) earns an entry to a daily jackpot prize of $10,000 in Tim's Financial Prepaid Mastercards. There are also many other prizes to win when you "roll," including one of 10 2024 Volkswagen ID.4 Pro S All-Wheel Drives, five princess cruises, six nights at the Hilton Hotel, prizes from Cineplex, Bass Pro Shops, Skull Candy, Home Hardware, Tim Horton's gift cards, and more.

Why It Works:

The Roll Up the Rim contest is a highly successful contest for the coffee chain, running for over 35 years. As Tim's has evolved, their menu and customer base have grown with it, and what has enabled the contest's continued success is extending it beyond hot coffee to many different drinks and food items and getting rid of the dreaded "please play again."

Roll Up the Rim is Tim Horton's biggest contest, but it also has other contests, including its annual NHL Hockey Challenge, which gives Rewards members the chance to win free coffee for a week and larger prizes. Tying these popular contests to its reward program gives Tim Hortons a wealth of information about its customers.

Starbucks Summer Dream Days Game

Another popular coffee chain, Starbucks, has over 30,000 stores in 80 countries. Based in the US, Starbucks has over 30 million loyalty members in the US alone.

Starbucks Rewards is a tiered rewards program that awards stars for purchases. One star equals one dollar spent when scanning and paying at the register. Members who use the Starbucks digital wallet earn two stars for each dollar spent. The loyalty program also gives a birthday treat and has bonus reward days and double star days.

Loyalty members can exchange their stars for various food and drink rewards:

  • 25 stars = customize a drink
  • 200 stars = a handcrafted drink such as a latte or cold brew
  • 400 stars = merchandise like a cup or tumbler or $20 toward merch

Starbucks is also big into gamification and offers several different types of games every year. The Dream Days game is one of these contests, with over 750,000 prizes, including a trip for two to Costa Rica.


You must be a Starbucks Rewards member to participate in the Dream Days contest. The contest consists of a series of puzzles a player needs to complete (one per week). You earn two plays by purchasing a qualifying purchase. Fridays are free plays, and Monday is a double play day. To earn chances to win puzzle boosters (tricks that help you win the puzzle faster), you can participate in activities such as making an order on the mobile app, purchasing after noon, reloading your digital wallet, or taking a poll.  

Why It Works:

People love online games, and Starbucks creates games that are fun to play. To get loyalty members hooked, Starbucks gives them the first play free and provides plenty of incentives to keep going. The company's loyalty program is built on a gamification strategy and is credited for its 44% customer retention rate.

Pizza Hut’s Hut Rewards and Cheat on Cheeseburger Promotion

Pizza Hut is known for its pizza, but if you look closely, you'll also see that it goes big on fun promotions tied to its Hut Rewards loyalty program. When you sign up for the program, you get free breadsticks on your next order.

The Hut Rewards program is simple. Customers earn points when they order pizza online or in the restaurant. The points are then exchanged for free pizzas. The loyalty program also has exclusive offers and birthday rewards.

Pizza Hut's promotions are innovative. For example, in May 2024, the pizza restaurant held a "Cheat on Cheeseburger" promotion to encourage people to try its new cheeseburger melt.


This promotion saw Pizza Hut delivery drivers appear at certain QSR burger chain drive-throughs. On the back of the car was a QR code that people could scan and enter to redeem a coupon for a free Cheeseburger Melt and Pepsi while supplies last (the company gave out 7,350 coupons).

Why It Works:

Pizza Hut is no stranger to fun promotions. On Valentine's Day, they launched the Goodbye Pies promotion, which enabled a limited number of customers to break up with their partner through a pizza. The company also went big on March Madness last year by bringing back limited edition mini basketballs (the balls were introduced in the 90s) that customers could purchase for a small amount.

In all cases, these promotions are designed to engage customers in unique ways and provide Pizza Hut with a wealth of information that it can use to improve its offers.

Popeyes Hungry Loyalty Department

Popeye's rewards loyalty program is straightforward. Earn 10 points for every dollar spent (typical for most loyalty programs). Also, for a minimum purchase of $5, you can get an apple pie, a free regular side, or a small drink. The more points you earn, the better the rewards. For example, 200 points get you two biscuits, while 1000 points reward a three-piece tender dinner. You can also earn more points when purchasing combos or family meals.

In addition to earning points, the Popeyes loyalty program has challenges that help members earn free food faster and special periods during which members can get discounts on items.

One fun promotion the company did recently was a play on Taylor Swift's The Tortured Poets Department album. On May 17th, National Customer Appreciation Day, Popeyes released a promo for its Golden BBQ Sandwich aimed at members of its loyalty program called "The Hungry Loyalty Department."


With any purchase of $10, loyalty members would earn a free sandwich. The reward came in the form of 600 bonus points. The promotion also had a hidden code (similar to something Swift did in one of her songs) that was a dig at Chick-fil-A by pointing out that they were open on Sundays (Chick-fil-A is not).

Why It Works:

Any promotion that includes a nod to Taylor Swift will speak to millions of Swifties and earn attention for the fried chicken chain, likely earning it a high percentage of new members. Taking a dig at the competition nicely is also smart. This promotion was a great way to entice loyalty members to try a new chicken sandwich and give Popeye's quantifiable feedback on its new menu item.

Chipotle’s Focus on Gamification

Chipotle is considered a fast-casual restaurant. It started its rewards program in 2019 but revamped it in 2021 after members complained it took too long to earn rewards. The restaurant chain has conducted several innovative promotions to encourage more people to sign up for its new rewards program.

Along with creating an online video game, Race to Rewards, where members had a chance to win a Tesla, Chipotle created the Rewards Exchange, which enabled members to exchange points earned from eating in the restaurant. In addition to food and merchandise rewards, members could donate their points to non-profits.  

Other program offers include 2x points days, early access to menu items and merchandise, and achievement badges.

In 2023, Freepotle Bonus Rewards was introduced. It included ten free food drops throughout the year. Chipotle kicked off the program in January with a seven-day opportunity to enter to win Chipotle for a year when a member spent $5 in the restaurant or online. 3,100 free one-year prizes were given away. This promotion also involved a TikTok and Instagram Live Prize Wheel, where one live viewer on each social network could win a year's worth of Chipotle.

Chipotle’s most recent promotion was a new interactive game called the Burrito Vault. This promotion gave away 100,000 Buy-One-Get-One free entrée codes redeemable exclusively on National Burrito Day. Players had to guess the exact order of 2 combos to unlock the bank. The first 50,000 fans to succeed won a BOGO code, and all winners were entered into a sweepstakes to win free burritos for a year.


Also, on National Burrito Day, Chipotle extended a free delivery offer to all Chipotle Rewards members who ordered on the mobile app or website.

Why It Works:

Chipotle learned its lesson when it created a rewards program that its customers weren't happy with. When it revamped the program and started introducing gamification, it saw its loyalty members grow significantly. It's one of the fastest-growing QSR loyalty programs, with over 30 million new members by 2022. The racing game alone earned it 71,000 new rewards members. People love games, and by giving them multiple ways to win, Chipotle was able to improve its membership.

Chick-fil-A Tiered Loyalty Program

Chick-fil-A's loyalty program is similar to most QSR restaurants, with a slight twist. It is a points-based program with tiers. The higher the tier, the more points you earn for each dollar spent. Plus, higher tiers come with extra rewards.


Membership tiers include:

  • Silver - 11 points + gift points to friends and family
  • Red = 12 points + gift points + take a free backstage tour at Home Office (5 people)
  • Signature - 13 points + gift points + backstage tour + exclusive rewards

The Signature exclusive rewards are typically offered in a claim window and are first-come, first-serve limited quantity items.

Why It Works:

This is a standard loyalty program, for the most part. There are no special promotions or gamification, but the tiered membership does encourage members to spend more to receive greater benefits. The program provides Chick-fil-A with lots of data on its customers and their spending habits and enables it to adjust rewards and its menu to meet its customers' needs.

Dunkin Donuts

Dunkin Donuts' loyalty program, Dunkin Rewards, is a point-based program where you earn 10 points for every dollar spent (sound familiar?). It also offers a Boosted Status that allows you to earn 12 points for every dollar if you visit the chain twelve times in a month. With Dunkin Rewards, you also get a birthday reward, but unlike other QSR restaurants, you get three days to collect it.  

There's also Monday Mobile, where you can collect 100 points for ordering ahead, and the Dunkin Run, where you can buy coffee and get a discount on food. In addition, Dunkin' has exclusive offers, discounts, and surprises.

Dunkin has regular promotions, such as giving rewards members a discount on summer drinks for a limited period. However, one that took off included collaborating with the Little Words Project for National Coffee Day. This collaboration saw the creation of a set of bead bracelets with memorable sayings such as "Iced Coffee,” “Cafecito Time,” “Eat the Donut,” and “Get Sip Done.” The limited-edition bracelets were sold for $30.


Dunkin said the bracelets were meant to bring joy into their customers' lives. It helped that these bracelets were similar to the ones Taylor Swift fans wore and exchanged during her Eras Tour. In addition to the bracelets, Dunkin also rewarded its members with a free hot or cold coffee on National Coffee Day.  

Not too long after this, a special code surfaced that gave users a free iced coffee when used in the Dunkin app. The code, "123LETSGO," was in reference to something Swifties yelled at the beginning of one of Taylor Swift's songs.

Why It Works:

Again, any promotion that includes the most famous singer in the world will earn a company attention. Although this wasn't a direct collaboration with Taylor Swift, the fact that Swifties wore similar bracelets during the Eras Tour gave Dunkin an unintentional brand lift.

Success Factors for QSR Loyalty Programs and Promotions

Let's wrap up by talking about what makes a loyalty program and promotion successful.

First and most important, the program must be simple to use and understand. Customers won't be interested in participating if they can't quickly understand what they need to do and how it brings them value. You can offer many types of incentives and rewards to loyalty program members. These include BOGO (buy one, get one), meal of the month, Happy Hours, limited-time offers, special discounts or coupons, early-bird deals, and collecting points.

Next, redeeming prizes should also be straightforward. Most loyalty programs mentioned above allow you to scan your mobile app at purchase to redeem points. It should be clear how many points are needed to redeem a reward, and collecting enough points should not take forever.

 Some promotions, such as sweepstakes and contests, are for all customers, but there should always be a promotion component that encourages sign-up for the loyalty program. You could also include a special offer inside the promotion specific to loyalty members (e.g., free delivery or a free drink).

Finally, it should be easy for loyalty members to see how many points they have and update their information.

What’s Your Favorite QSR Loyalty Program or Promotion?

We’ve covered seven loyalty programs and promotions for quick service restaurants, but there are many others, including McDonald’s Monopoly, Burger King’s “Tis the Cheeson,” and Domino’s “You Tip We Tip.”  

The point is that in a competitive market like quick service restaurants, loyalty programs, and innovative promotions capture a larger share of customers and keep them coming back for more.

To learn how Snipp, can help your company with a loyalty program or promotions to complement a program, contact us here for a short consultation.