The top 10 quick-service restaurant apps in the U.S. were downloaded 12.1 million times in July, 16.3 percent more than those the month prior. Year-over-year in the month of July, downloads of the top 36 quick-service restaurant apps are up 42.2 percent. A download represents a new user and the first conversion on the mobile app customer’s journey.
July was the biggest month on record for downloads of the top 36 quick-service restaurant apps, and more records will undoubtedly be set. As mobile penetration continues to grow, brands continue to invest into their mobile app experience, and the incentives to download a quick-serve app continue to be appealing/available, we will continue to see download numbers rise. Keep in mind, we’re tracking first-time downloads and not re-installs. Also something to note is that this is not just the top few franchises like McDonald’s that are growing. The average number of downloads for the No. 10 spot on these top charts has been increasing steadily as well.
Still, the big players are certainly growing, too. McDonald’s had its second largest month of app downloads in July, thanks to National Fry day and its summer camp campaign/experience we talked about last month, which is only available through the app. The franchise’s largest month is still October 2018 when the franchise launched its Halloween instant win game and brought back the McRib.
In July, Starbucks sold its cold drinks 50 percent off every Tuesday for rewards members. The promo turned around five consecutive months of falling daily active user numbers. In July, DAUs were up 19 percent, year-over-year. Also potentially tied into this surge is that in June, Starbucks started paying to rank for app store keywords related to McDonald's, such as “macdonald,” “mcdonald’s,” “happy meal,” “mcdonalds,” and “donalds."
Often, people search for the exact brand they are craving, but many times they are searching for a type of food. This is where the importance of organic ranking well for keywords, or having a strategy surrounding paid keywords, comes into play. App store algorithms return the apps they think users want to see when users search certain terms. The algorithm is at least partly based on actual user activity, suggesting that users are searching “restaurant” or related terms and choosing the Subway app, which is currently ranking third for the search term. Sonic is also currently ranking fourth for the keyword “fast food” on the App Store.
Speaking of Sonic, it’s having a much better year in 2022 than in 2021. Last year, monthly active users (MAUs) sank 1.3 percent from Q1 to Q2. This year, Sonic has realized a 24.6 percent increase quarter-over-quarter and is on track to have its largest number of MAUs since Q3 2019. The third quarter has historically been Sonic’s best every year, likely for its cold drinks and cold desserts. Judging by analysis of Sonic’s app user reviews, people are thoroughly enjoying Sonic’s rewards and half priced drinks (daily from 2 to 4 p.m.). Both of these key terms have a positive sentiment associated with them.
Even with McDonald’s, Starbucks and Panda Express having strong month-over-month download growth, Whataburger topped them all, growing 76 percent. While the burger chain is opening new restaurants in Tennessee, the growth started before that. Whataburger launched several new limited items very close together; spicy ketchup batch No. 2, breakfast burger, chocolate chunk brownie, banana pudding shake, peppercorn ranch chicken club sandwich, bacon blue cheeseburger. Limited runs work very well for bursts of attention and building fandom. The McRib and Pumpkin Spice Latte can attest.
Adam Blacker is the VP of Insights at Apptopia, the leader in real-time competitive intelligence. Brands use the platform to generate insights across mobile apps and connected devices. They rely on Apptopia to better understand consumer behavior and intent across app-based devices to gain a competitive advantage.