Man taking his purchases at a restaurant from a cashier

Learn from 4 QSR giants: leverage smart POS tech for restaurant management success

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Almost everyone has an opinion about which quick service restaurant (QSR) has the tastiest chicken sandwich or the best bang-for-your-buck coffee — and now consumers are checking which eateries offer the best perks, too. As fast food chains roll out buzzy apps and loyalty programs, consumers are on a quest to discover where they’ll be rewarded with free pizza for frequent visits or who sends discounts just for signing up.

Your point of sale system is the key to implementing a customer loyalty program and improving your operational efficiencies that keep your customers and employees happy. In this article, we’ll discuss the best POS system features for restaurants and the many ways your fast food business can leverage a POS system equipped for efficiency and incentives.

How do QSRs use mobile apps and loyalty programs?

Historically, most QSRs could count on steady repeat business just for having irresistible fries at an unbeatable price. Smart tech, available through your point of sale system, has changed that over time as mobile apps and rewards programs have exploded in popularity. In the US, the average household is enrolled in more than 18 loyalty programs.

Though customers still pledge allegiance to certain favorite combos, choosing where to grab lunch is often a last-minute decision based on current cravings, proximity or the length of the drive-thru line. But the choice could come down to having the ability to order ahead and earn rewards.

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For 40 years, the slogan at Burger King was “Have it your way.” Today, with a couple quick taps, everyone can have it their way at nearly any QSR — no pickles and extra mayo on the #9, please — and they could receive rewards just for ordering.

Sure, it feels good to give your app-enrolled customers a free cookie every other week to thank them for their patronage, but mobile apps and rewards programs go beyond that. Apps and loyalty programs help increase sales and engagement, collect insight about your customers and their behaviors and preferences and increase the efficiency of your operations.

image of a mobile user making a payment to a mobile Heartland payment device

Does my QSR need a food and beverage POS with mobile functionality and loyalty programming?

While most national QSR chains have adopted apps and perks, these tools aren’t just for the likes of Wendy’s and Taco Bell. Some locally-owned mom-and-pop spots are introducing incentives to draw customers in, as well. Still, a recent study showed nearly 40% of QSR customers don’t use a loyalty program because their preferred restaurant doesn’t offer one.

In fact, several QSR giants didn’t even have mobile apps with rewards until the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. As more customers place food orders at home and in the drive-thru, it’s important to be able to offer a point of sale experience away from the counter — one that won’t strain revenue or employee resources.

If your QSR doesn’t currently use food and beverage POS software designed to attract and retain customers and streamline operations, you could be leaving money (and the devotion of your regulars and would-be regulars) on the table.

In times of uncertainty and in phases of growth, you need proven strategies to thrive. Following the game plan from major brands’ playbooks is a great place to, well, get cookin’. Let’s dive in and explore how four powerhouse QSRs build loyalty and boost efficiency, and how you can do the same for your business by leveraging technology (with a hearty side of ingenuity).

4 QSR wins in the fast food industry

Every fast food chain has their recipes down, but it takes more than that to keep guests coming back and your books in the black. Having powerful point of sale technology that can boost the efficiency of your drive-thru, incentivize frequency and provide keen inventory insight for optimal vendor relationships are just as crucial to win customers and drive sales.

In this article, we’ll evaluate how four QSR giants are operating so you can see how to implement their wins and avoid their losses in your own quick-service restaurant.

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Despite having the highest volume of cars in line, Chick-Fil-A consistently moves vehicles through the drive-thru at a faster rate than other fast food chains with an average service time of just 107.41 seconds.

WIN! Chick-Fil-A revolutionizes the drive-thru experience

From its famed catchphrase to its staff notoriously going the extra mile, Chick-Fil-A is often seen as the gold standard for customer service across quick-service chains.

Their response to the pandemic was no exception. In the spring of 2020, many restaurants were forced to close the interior of their stores and operate with a skeleton crew as employees quit in droves. With only a drive-thru to serve guests, a lot of quick-service restaurants struggled to meet demand.

As other fast food restaurants focused on limiting human interaction or even shuttered their doors, Chick-Fil-A took a different approach with a formula that focused on:

  • An innovative re-structuring of their ordering and payment process

  • Speed of service and seamless end-to-end experience

  • Customer engagement from real humans physically present

Equipped with handheld digital payments devices, Chick-Fil-A staff broke up congested drive-thru lines by creating several checkpoints for customers to order, pay and receive their food.

By embracing technology and bringing their employees outside to the drive-thru, where customers needed them most, Chick-Fil-A was able to generate drastically more volume and continue serving their customers with the warm but efficient hospitality they’re known for.

You can leverage technology for your QSR, too, with a food and beverage POS system designed with mobile POS capabilities. Chick-Fil-A used their point of sale for line busting, but there are multiple ways fast food restaurants can utilize mobile functionality to generate more sales, reduce chaos in the kitchen and exceed customers’ expectations.

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WIN! Starbucks’ mobile app is so powerful it beats out in-person ordering

Espresso aficionados go to Starbucks for the coffee and stay for the stars (what their brand calls their rewards). Launched in 2009, Starbucks’ app and loyalty program has over 24 million active members. According to the company’s Q3 2021 earnings call, it added over one million new active rewards members in that same time period. Though Starbucks still has plenty of customers making purchases within the cafés, the brand has mastered the shift from in-person ordering to in-app ordering with over two-thirds of its sales placed in the drive-thru, through mobile ordering and by delivery service.

Not only does the Starbucks app make it easy to select items, pay and pick up a to-go order, it also treats its users to free stuff — from free flavored syrups to free breakfast sandwiches — after just a few visits. Additionally, customers who use the app receive a birthday treat, complimentary brewed coffee and tea refills and other exclusive benefits.

It gets better. The mobile app uses push notifications to let customers know when their order is ready, and customers can even plan when to visit to maximize their points since the company sends out emails letting users know when it’s Double Star Day.

Plus, Starbucks customers can make purchases in-app with a gift card, by connecting it to their bank account or with a credit card — and now they’re earning double the perks from their credit card company and their favorite coffee shop!

The company has spent millions to understand customers’ behavior and personalize their experiences — all you have to do is leverage their investment with a food and beverage POS system designed to boost repeat business with features like intuitive mobile and online ordering, order balancing and real-time reporting.

With the best tech tools for your QSR, you can also brew up a rewards program to captivate your customers.

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WIN! Domino’s is the benchmark for online ordering, tracking and the delivery experience

Another QSR with a dynamite online ordering system? Domino’s. An early adopter of digital ordering, Domino’s made it fun to place an order and check its whereabouts — and with good-enough-to-eat imagery, they made it tempting, too.

Online, Domino’s customers can send personalized messaging to Rob, the guy adding bell peppers to their ‘za, or talk directly with Dom, the company’s ordering assistant bot, to create and track orders. Additionally, the pizza brand lets customers personalize their pizzas to their exact preferences and frequently offers coupons and deals.

When the pandemic fatigue had set in and people were tired of their own home-cooking (or was it the stack of dishes in the sink every night?), fast food restaurants like Chick-Fil-A and Domino’s saved dinner with user-friendly navigation, curbside pick-up and delivery options and perks galore.

A lot of people already like pizza, but the personalization, customization and savings offered by Domino’s makes their pies extra craveable.

Currently, over 90% of Domino’s orders are done digitally, with around 40% of orders placed in-app.

Whether you run a pizza joint or another type of QSR, you can build your customer base and generate more sales with a restaurant POS that makes online ordering easy and convenient and lets customers earn rewards, customize flavors and choose between pick-up or delivery.

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WIN! Five Guys thrives when other burger places failed

Despite an already-saturated market for burger and fries, fast-casual patty joint Five Guys opened in the late ‘80s and began franchising around 20 years ago to great success. With complimentary peanuts in the shell and unlimited burger toppings choices, the company does well with its simplified menu even though they charge more than the fast food burger business across the street.

With all the toppings options (will it be grilled onions with relish or the classic ketchup and mustard?), it’s important for Five Guys to have a healthy supply chain — and they do.

The ability for the company to source and stock everything from peanut oil to Burbank spuds from Idaho and forecast and track sales data with ease is a big reason Five Guys is still in play, despite customers having dozens of options for a burger on nearly every corner.

A robust supply chain can make all the difference for your quick-service restaurant, and the right restaurant operations tech can help. Strong relationships with food suppliers and a fully-stacked POS ordering system are just some of the main ingredients to being a QSR powerhouse.

Heartland offers a flexible restaurant point of sale with two plan options including features that let you automate PO ordering with vendors, alert you when an item — like tomatoes — are low in stock and dozens of other features that can help your QSR thrive.

How a food & beverage loyalty program can boost business for your QSR

Whether they’re dining in or ordering on the app, customers today expect a personalized brand experience at every touchpoint. As major players in the QSR industry have shown, customers want apps and loyalty programs that offer simple navigation, easy-to-complete transactions, fast service and special rewards and discounts.

You know that loyalty programs drive profits, but these tech solutions also provide you with new channels to interact with customers and stay top of mind when meal time rolls around.

Start by focusing on increasing sign-ups, then target guests with engaging marketing campaigns and tailored rewards backed by insights from a real-time sales dashboard.

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“Would you like data with that?”

Restaurant point of sale systems from Heartland serve up all the analytics you need to see what’s working, what’s not and what’s next.

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Real-time reporting lets you manage your kitchen, waitlists, employees and inventory more efficiently so you can use data to make better business decisions.

Plus, Heartland Restaurant also helps you discover diners’ behaviors and preferences and other consumer trends, empowering you to provide a frictionless customer experience, score repeat purchases and more.

“Will that be small, medium or large?”

Whether you have a small restaurant, midsize restaurant or enterprise-style restaurant, Heartland has options for everything from tiny bistros to national chains and all the restaurants in between. With a host of POS integrations for your register, terminal and mobile devices, your choices are almost as extensive as the condiment choices at Five Guys.

Taste success with a powerful, intuitive POS from Heartland Restaurant

The pandemic emphasized and accelerated the need for certain offerings like online ordering and scan-to-pay contactless payments, but these functions are here to stay as part of the customer experience. And if you ask us, Heartland Restaurant has the best overall POS for QSRs.

You’ve read how a few leading QSR brands drive loyalty and enhance efficiency, but not every business gets it right all the time. Recently, one coffee brand announced it would be changing the way its rewards are distributed, and Yahoo! Finance reported that customers were not pleased. By consulting consumer feedback and reviewing insights, you may be able to avoid a blunder — or at least use the data to get back on track.

Still not convinced that a data-rich restaurant POS could be the best move to win wallet share for your coffee shop or eatery? Consider how innovative payments built into POS systems are changing the restaurant industry and how tying them in to your marketing strategy could be a game-changer.

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Heartland is the point of sale, payments and payroll solution of choice for entrepreneurs that need human-centered technology to sell more, keep customers coming back and spend less time in the back office. Nearly 1,000,000 businesses trust us to guide them through market changes and technology challenges, so they can stay competitive and focus on building remarkable businesses instead of managing the daily grind. Learn more at heartland.us