The original article is posted at QSR Magazine, where I write a monthly column.

The top 10 quick-service restaurant apps in the U.S. were downloaded 10.8 million times in March, 2.85 percent more than those the month prior. Year-over-year in the month of March, downloads of the top 36 quick-service restaurant apps are up 13 percent. A download represents a new user and the first conversion on the mobile app customer’s journey.

March 2023

There’s lots more chart month-over-month chart movement this period than we’re used to. Wendy’s is back on the board, shooting up five spots from #15 last month to #10 this March. KFC is the next largest gainer, climbing four pegs to make its way back on the board and all the way up to #8. Chipotle, now on the board for the third month in a row after a long hiatus, jumped up three spots to #7. Taco Bell and Dunkin’ both improved their ranking by two. Burger King and Pizza Hut both fell three spots and off the board, while Chick-fil-A dropped down two spots to #6.

The QSR app with the most download growth from February to March was Blaze Pizza, thanks to its 10th annual Pi Day deal. Downloads for the pizza app grew a whopping 660% thanks to the promotion that enabled customers to score a pizza for just $3.14. The offer was only open to rewards members who unlocked it via their mobile app. Last year’s promotion saw just a couple of thousand downloads more than this year’s.

March was rare in that there were another two apps with month-over-month growth of more than 100%. Most months do not even have one app with 100% growth. Dairy Queen came in at 193% while Tim Hortons came in at 107%. Dairy Queen owes its new users to a promotion for its famous Blizzard ice cream item. The Blizzard launched in 1985 and from April 10 – 23, app users can get the frozen treat for just $0.85.

Downloads surged late March which could be a sign of a miscommunication, or a mistimed announcement, as the offer is not valid until April 10th. Reading reviews of the app, there are some people who were looking for the promo already but could not find it. Dairy Queen should do another round of press (if it can get it) closer to the actual promo, otherwise it is lessenging its already low chances of keeping new users from a transactional promotion. These types of promotions tend to retain users at a lower rate.

Tim Hortons’ new app users came from its annual Roll Up to Win promotion, which helped it become March’s top growth app last year. Even with its 107% growth over February, it remains a very small app in the United States as Dunkin and Starbucks own the vast majority of the coffee market there. On top of the promotion’s normal prizes, there is a daily jackpot of $10,000. Participants must have an active account on the mobile app and they are able to get an extra roll when placing a mobile order.

The first quarter of the year is almost always the slowest in terms of QSR app downloads, with each consecutive quarter growing in number. I’m ready to see how loyalty programs grow and expand and to find out which QSR integrates some form of advanced AI into their mobile app experience first.

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