The Fast Food Loyalty Programs That Changed in 2022

Familiarize yourself with these changes for the new year.

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The food and restaurant industry is still in the midst of recovering from the impact of the pandemic. For that reason, many chains used 2022 as a year to discover new ways to bring in customers and keep them coming back. One of the most successful strategies has been a renewed focus on loyalty programs.

From Tim Horton’s to Starbucks to P.F. Chang’s, just about every chain restaurant has a loyalty program to reward repeat customers. In 2022, multiple chains made some significant changes to their programs and not every change was received well by customers.

Chipotle rewards less

In October, it was announced that it would cost more for members of Chipotle’s rewards program to earn themselves a free burrito or other entree. The company cited inflation as the reason for the change.

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Rewards members previously needed 1,400 points to earn a free entree. It now takes 1,625 points. The increase is pretty significant when you think about it. You see, Chipotle rewards members earn 10 points for every dollar spent which means it previously took $140 to get a free item. Now, it costs $162.50. So, that’s $22.50 extra to earn a burrito that costs the average customer roughly $12.

If inflation continues to rear its ugly head in 2023, you may not want to get too attached to the price of your chips and guac. You never know how Chipotle will choose to combat inflation in the new year.

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Dunkin’ perks to rewards

In a move that looked like the doughnut chain was trying to mimic its competitor, Business Insider reported that Dunkin’ revamped its loyalty program. The end result looks very similar to Starbucks’s system.

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Dunkin’ Perks transformed to Dunkin’ Rewards, and unfortunately for the brand’s most loyal customers that didn’t sit well. Previously, Perks customers earned five points for every dollar spent, with a free drink costing 200 points, or $40 of spending. The new system has members earning 10 points for every dollar, but the points are redeemed for smaller rewards. This means the bigger rewards cost more points than they did before. For example, you can redeem 150 points ($15 in purchases) for an espresso shot, Munchkins, or hash browns, but it takes 500 points ($50 spent) to earn a free drink (again, it only cost $40 before).

It’s understandable why people who were accustomed to the old system would take issue with this new program, but it’s hard to argue when Starbucks has one of the most successful rewards programs around. Hopefully, the coffee and doughnut chain at least reconsiders the birthday perk under the new system. Under the old perks, you’d get a free drink on your birthday, but now you just earn triple points.

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McDonald’s expands My McDonald’s Rewards

On a more positive note, McDonald’s updated its loyalty program in 2022 and it actually allows for members to earn more free stuff than before.

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For rewards newbies, the way this program works is that you accrue points whenever you order food via the app, or scan your your phone in person when placing an order. Each dollar you spend nets you 100 points, and once you hit 1,500, you can redeem a freebie. Those who signed up under the old system also had their points roll over, which is a plus. On top of that, signing up for the new rewards program immediately earns you a free cheeseburger, hash browns, McChicken, or vanilla ice cream cone after their first order is placed, plus an order of free fries.

McDonald’s has never been stingy when it comes to handing out freebies and deals to repeat customers, so if you aren’t already, I’d say it pays to stay loyal to the arches in the new year.

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Starbucks made major loyalty updates

In 2022, Starbucks made it a little easier to earn and redeem its star points at every one of its locations. Previously, many of the chain’s licensed outlets differed slightly from the chain’s standalone coffee shops in that some did not allow customers to pay in Stars or place mobile orders.

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The coffee chain announced earlier this year that it will be using a new technology called Starbucks Connect in all its locations that will allow customers to have the same mobile ordering and reward-redeeming capabilities across the board. However, a Starbucks representative did clarify for The Takeout that the coffee chain has no plans to bring mobile ordering capabilities to any of its locations inside Target stores at this time. A girl can dream, though.

On top of making rewards points more accessible, the chain also announced that U.S. customers who are enrolled in both Delta SkyMiles and Starbucks Rewards loyalty programs can link their accounts and earn airline miles for their Starbucks purchases.

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If your goal for 2023 is to travel more, then I suggest you start chugging a lot more coffee.