Taco Bell, Wendy’s and McDonald’s Want You to Have Free Food

Fast-food chains are literally giving away all sort of free stuff (but there’s a catch).

Fast-food chains are working hard to make better use of technology that gives them keen insights into their customers’ tastes and preferences.

Developing apps, and getting people to use them, are both a source of pride and a thorn in the side of almost every major fast-food chain these days. 

From enticing buyers with free food to making certain items available only through the app, chains will often try a variety of incentives to get customers to use them.

Customers ordering online benefits the company with everything from faster turnaround to fewer necessary staff. 

However, a large number of customers prefer not to download the apps for a whole range of reasons. Some just can’t  be bothered. Others are concerned about the privacy implications. Canadian regulators recently accused Canadian donut and coffee chain Tim Hortons, owned by Restaurants Brands International QSRof collecting “vast amounts of location data” from the app that customers used to order food.

The information gleaned included everything from how often customers went to competitors to how often they left the office to get a snack.

So How Are Chains Getting People On The App?

The strategy of offering customers something they can only get online is one that seems to work well — Apptopia research found that, after launching the Taco Lovers’ Pass, Yum! Brands  (YUM) – Get Yum! Brands Inc. Report-owned Taco Bell saw its subscriptions soar to 1.4 million last January.

Most recently, the Tex-Mex chain added another product that is only available on the app: the Toasted Cheddar Chalupa Box.

Taco Bell

The chalupa coated with an extra layer of cheese is a beloved menu item that the chain recently brought back after a long hiatus. For years, Taco Bell fans have been nudging the chain to start selling it again.

For $5, those who have the app will get it alongside a crunchy taco, fountain drink and choice of Cinnamon Twists or chips and cheese sauce. 

Individually, the chalupa costs $4.19 while a typical box combo ranges between $6 and $7.

McDonald’s And Wendy’s Are Also Doing It

Wendy’s  (WEN) – Get Wendy’s Company (The) Report, in turn, was recently documented handing out free breakfast sandwiches to those who used its app to make any other purchase on June 3, what some call National Egg Day.

The chain has recently been on a serious mission to expand its morning offerings with the choice of Breakfast Baconator, Classic Sausage, Egg & Cheese Sandwich and the Classic Bacon, Egg & Cheese Sandwich.

But perhaps the most pro move came from McDonald’s (MCD) – Get McDonald’s Corporation Report, which already outpaces all other chains in terms of app download.

In March, the burger giant once again made the Szechuan Sauce available through the app for a few days.

Considering that each return of the elusive sauce launched to promote Mulan in 1998 results in winding lines and sometimes even fights and riots, it will surely be enough motivation to get some people on the app.

“There’s kind of a race for shelf space — except it’s a race for a share of customers’ minds — and phones,” Deloitte restaurant analyst Andrew Feinberg told the Chicago Tribune.

Apptopia research found that the Golden Arches saw 2.2 million people download its app in February 2022. Starbucks SBUX, Domino’s DPZ and and Taco Bell were behind at a respective 910,000, 784,00 and 683,000 downloads.

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