Here’s Why the Top Three QSR Chains are the Ultimate Marketing Masters

Today’s foodie has more restaurants to pick from than ever.

With innovative fast casuals and elevated casual dining restaurants popping up across the country, quick-serve establishments are being forced to rebrand and adapt to keep consumer attention.

For any restaurant to keep up in this competitive digital space, their marketers have to think outside the box. While traditional print marketing may be still relative, the consumer’s everyday experience is now a virtual one.

Every restaurant brand is trying to catch the attention of this elusive, distracted consumer, but some brands do this better than others. QSR chains, especially those who have been around for a while, understand that marketing can make or break a brand.

We decided to take a closer look at the top three QSR brands on Foodable’s most recent National Top 25 Restaurants list to see how these ultimate marketing masters stay above the competition. 

Starbucks is King

This coffee-focused QSR landed at No. 1 on the 2017 mid-year National Top 25 Restaurants ranking.

What’s this brand’s secret recipe? Is it the creative limited-time beverages like the Unicorn Frappuccino that end up going viral? Is it the wildly popular mobile app? It’s a mixture of both of these things.

The brand continues to nurture a loyal following with its high-quality beverages, grab-and-go food program, easy to use mobile app, social media campaigns, and with a team of exceptional baristas. 

The brand certainly knows how to create a buzz and is fluent in millennial speak. By consistently releasing new limited-time beverages (like the Unicorn Frappuccino,) the brand engages its customer base. Guests don’t just order these beverages for the taste, they want to share them on their social media accounts.

Not to mention, Starbucks is aiming to make ordering coffee easier than ever. 

Mobile orders account for at least 8% of the chain’s total transactions. The coffee chain receives so many orders, that the busiest stores have had trouble keeping up. The chain was quick to address the problem by adding one or two more baristas to strictly focus on mobile orders.

Not only does the app make ordering from Starbucks super convenient, users earn reward points when they order through it that add up to free beverages.  

Chick-fil-A Uses Cowz to Market Gud

This fast food chain lands at No.3 on our National Top 25 Restaurants list. The brand continues to win awards for providing stellar customer service.

"[Customer service] is absolutely critical,” said Paul Brown, Arby's CEO to "Business Insider. "There are more choices out there… Look at retail! You have the choice of if you even want to go into a store at all."

Besides taking customer service to another level, the brand uses an on-going comedic marketing campaign to engage with its customers. The “Eat Mor Chikin” Cowz were introduced back in 1995 and these mascots still appear on billboards, TV segments, and on social media to promote eating chicken instead of beef. With slogans like "Gud Hair Dayz Start With Chikin" and "Eat Mor Chikin," these cowz have become funny little characters customers resonate with. 

Every year for Cow Appreciation, Chick-fil-A celebrates by giving guests a free entrée if they dress as a cow. This last year, the brand cornered the millennial segment with a Snapchat filter promoting the day.

Arby’s Comeback Continues to Pay-off

It's been 25 years and he's still hungry

A post shared by Arby's (@arbys) on

This QSR landed at No. 4 on the recent National Top 25 Restaurants ranking. The chain initially struggled with a brand revamp. Although the chain had a slow start, it eventually made an impressive comeback.

The restaurant changed its approach to advertising and social media starting in 2014. Its “We Have the Meats” campaign, with the voice, music, and imagery– it is hard to forget. Arby's new image is fearless, fun and anything but campy or uptight like its previous image.

The brand shows time and time again that it doesn’t take itself too seriously.

Arby's arguably has the most innovative social media posts. The brand posts their menu items with pop culture or current event references in photo or short animated video posts. These share-worthy images get a ton of engagement. It’s not uncommon for its Facebook posts to get 40k+ shares and 200K+ likes.

Note: Although Arby's is still at #4, we noticed that the brand's numbers have been trending down. More Foodable Labs analysis to come soon.

All the brands above may serve vastly different food offerings, but they do all have one thing in common. They have developed marketing campaigns that resonate with guests and keep them coming back for more.