July was the biggest month ever for fast food app downloads

The top 10 fast food apps in the US were downloaded 12.1 million times in July, 16.3% more than those the preceding month. Year over year in July, downloads of the top 36 fast food apps increased by 42.2%. A download represents a new user and the first conversion in the mobile app customer journey.

July was the biggest month ever for downloads of the top 36 fast food apps, and more records will no doubt be set. As mobile penetration continues to grow, brands continue to invest in their mobile app experience, and incentives to download a quick service app continue to be attractive/available, we will continue to see the number of downloads increase. Remember, we track first-time downloads, not reinstalls. It’s also worth noting that it’s not just the top few franchises like McDonald’s that are growing. The average number of downloads for the #10 spot on these top charts has also steadily increased.

Yet the big players are certainly growing too. McDonald’s had its second-biggest month for 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 biggest month is still October 2018, when the franchise launched its instant win Halloween game and brought back the McRib.

In July, Starbucks sold its cold drinks 50% off every Tuesday for rewards members. The promotion has revolved around five consecutive months of declines in daily active users. In July, DAUs were up 19% year over year. Also potentially related to this push, Starbucks began paying in June to rank for App Store keywords related to McDonald’s, such as “macdonald”, “mcdonald’s”, “happy meal”, “mcdonalds” and “donalds “.

Apptopia chart.

Often people are looking for the exact brand they want, but often they are looking for a type of food. This is where the importance of good organic keyword rankings or having a strategy around paid keywords comes in. App Store algorithms return apps they think users want to see when users search for certain terms. The algorithm is at least partly based on actual user activity, suggesting that users search for “restaurant” or related terms and choose the Subway app, which currently ranks third for the search term. Sonic also currently ranks #4 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) fell 1.3% from Q1 to Q2. This year, Sonic achieved a 24.6% quarter-over-quarter increase and is on track to have its highest number of MAUs since Q3 2019. Q3 has always been Sonic’s best every year, probably for its cold drinks and cold desserts. Judging from the analysis of Sonic app user reviews, people thoroughly enjoy Sonic rewards and half-price drinks (everyday from 2-4 p.m.). These two key terms are associated with a positive feeling.

Even with McDonald’s, Starbucks, and Panda Express having strong month-over-month download growth, Whataburger topped them all, with 76% growth. While the burger chain is opening new restaurants in Tennessee, the growth started before that. Whataburger launched several new limited items very close to each other; Spicy Ketchup Batch #2, Breakfast Burger, Chocolate Chunk Brownie, Banana Pudding Shake, Pepper Ranch Chicken Club Sandwich, Blue Bacon Cheeseburger. Limited runs work great for bursts of attention and building fandom. The McRib and Pumpkin Spice Latte can attest to that.

Adam Blacker is the Vice President of Insights at Apptopia, the leader in real-time competitive intelligence. Brands use the platform to generate insights into mobile apps and connected devices. They rely on Apptopia to better understand consumer behavior and intent on app-based devices to gain competitive advantage.

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