Pointsmith Blog


QSR magazine released the top 50 QSR brands last week based on domestic sales. I love reviewing this annual list of super-brands. It’s especially great to see QSRs that are moving up the list. A lot of their success starts with impressive at-store marketing. I want to highlight some themes I talk about every week which the QSRs on this list embrace.

  1. Be authentic – Five Guys Burgers and Fries (No 30 on the QSR list) stand behind their brand 100% and aren’t willing to cheapen it for anyone, even the Pentagon. Five Guys refuses to deliver orders to anyone because they believe it devalues their brand. After a Pentagon employee expressed discontent with this policy, Jerry Murrell, founder of Five Guys, put up a banner to highlight this policy, which said “Absolutely No Delivery.” (As a bold and brave superhero, I respect just the right amount of confidence and this localized, in-store marketing was a controversial yet effective move for Five Guys.) The result – Taking a stand increased sales to the Pentagon because government employees thought it was funny and respected the way Five Guys stood their ground. Even more, President Obama himself went to Five Guys to pick up his lunch.
  2. Make social worth it – In 2010, if you liked Einstein bagels (No. 48 on the QSR list) on Facebook, you received a digital coupon for a free bagel and schmear. As James O’Reilly, the chief concept officer at Einstein Noah Restaurant Group says here, “We wanted to give as many consumers as possible a chance to try our freshly baked bagels because we know that their freshness, quality and taste will win consumers over every time.” Einstein went from 5000 to over 600,000 Facebook fans as a result of this promotion. They drove people to the campaign through great at-store marketing and word of mouth. This online community is now very engaged and constantly sharing their thoughts about the brand. In-store marketing drove consumers to the page and now social media engagement will drive consumers back to the store for a repeat purchase.
  3. Speak to your consumer – Panera Bread (No. 13 on the QSR list) knows their customer. Instead of waiting for the new legislation to force them to post calories on their menu boards, Panera Bread decided to be proactive and meet the consumer’s needs. They know that many of us, (including me when I noticed my svelte shape had thickened) want to know how many calories we are eating. They now post calories on all menu boards, making it easy to know whether you are having a healthy lunch or indulging in a tasty treat.
  4. Innovate and adapt – Sonic (No. 10 on the QSR list) actually dropped in sales from 2009 to 2010. Instead of just continuing what they were doing, they revamped their marketing efforts. Every brand goes through down-times; think of Apple before the iPod. A sign of a good company is a willingness to innovate and adapt. Sonic is increasing their food quality and launching new products. They are refocusing on differentiating what makes them great: their quality service, the nostalgia provided by the drive-in experience, and their 400 customizable beverage options. Featuring this brand concept with attractive point-of-purchase advertising at their stores, social media strategies that engage consumers and above-the-line advertisements has already proven to be successful.
  5. Genuine cause marketing matters – Firehouse Subs (No 60 on the QSR list) just missed the top 50 list, but I predict they will crack the top 50 very soon. One of the top priorities for Firehouse Subs is their national fundraising campaign, a cause that is genuine and rooted in the name and legacy of the company.  The Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation supports local firefighters, law enforcement and EMS. Consumers notice and appreciate the commitment.  Firehouse Subs does this by providing lifesaving equipment, local education of safety, scholarships and by donating food to victims and first responders after natural disasters. Customers can contribute by purchasing giant pickle buckets, making in-store donations, or by purchasing fire safety medallions during the month of October. Being such an engrained part of local communities and giving the customers a chance to participate is part of why the Firehouse Subs brand continues to grow.

Which brands on the QSR top 50 list stand out to you?

About Diane Longoria

I'm the Director of Marketing at Pointsmith. I'm also known to be a gut-checker, pow-wow initiator, trend watcher, status quo pusher, and dork. To prove it, sometimes I break out into celebratory dance during meetings. I am a lover of spicy food, so spicy it makes my nose run. I prefer bluegrass to every other kind of music. And my favorite TV show is The Big Bang Theory.


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