Fast-Food Chains Grab Most Location-Based Check-ins

MyTown App Users Use Restaurants to Rack Points on Game

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NEW YORK ( -- Fast feeders, early data shows you're indeed cool enough for check-ins.

Quick-service chains Subway, McDonald's, Starbucks and Burger King have the most unique check-ins on MyTown, a location-based game with more than 3 million users that provided the data. Subway has seen nearly 6.4 million check-ins from more than 500,000 users since the app launched in December.

Restaurant chains make up eight of the top 10 most unique check-ins locations, along with pharmacies CVS and Walgreens. Restaurants saw the most check-ins by category in July, with 14.2 million. Businesses came in second with 8.5 million, mostly because people like to check-in at work, said Keith Lee, co-founder and CEO of MyTown developer Booyah.

For a category that's become somewhat synonymous with Foursquare, a location-based mobile app that saw 20- and 30-somethings checking in to bars and restaurants in cities in its early days, MyTown's results may seem surprising. But that's the difference between checking in to share your location on social networks such as Twitter and Facebook and checking in to win a game, Mr. Lee said.

Foursquare is often used to build a "social profile," said Allison Mooney, VP-emerging trends at MobileBehavior. While both Foursquare and MyTown offer points for checking in, MyTown users check in to get virtual goods or rewards to advance through a Monopoly-like game.

Top 10 locations on MyTown by unique check-ins since the app launched in December 2009
Location Total Check-ins Total Unique Check-ins
Subway 6,369,560 512,695
McDonald's 4,985,559 452,395
Starbucks 4,404,052 381,821
Burger King 2,507,445 287,898
CVS/pharmacy 6,204,216 285,380
Taco Bell 2,316,292 275,689
Pizza Hut 2,261,548 262,714
Walgreens 2,466,851 258,053
Domino's Pizza 2,181,409 244,263
Wendy's 1,502,047 217,553
Source: MyTown

"People are very selective of where they post on other location-based apps," said Mr. Lee. "Most people don't want to tell Facebook their day-to-day errands or places they go." he said, adding that people are much more willing to check in at everyday places like Best Buy or McDonald's on MyTown because they want to accrue rewards to advance in the game. Only 15% of MyTown check-ins are shared on Facebook, he said.

"We build our social profiles through editing and leaving things out as well as sharing," Ms. Mooney said. "I don't think everyone is embarrassed to check in at fast-food places, but for some people and social groups, there may be a stigma."

That's not to say quick-service check-ins aren't happening at all on Foursquare, or that the app is motivating users with points. Noah Glass, CEO of GoMobo, a food-ordering mobile-technology company, said he used to check in to places such as Five Guys, Subway and Starbucks when he used Foursquare, to earn points and get on that app's leader board.

"I think people are checking in to fast-food places either because they think they are cool or are trying to score points," he said. "Or, more and more these days, people get benefits or direct incentives for checking in."

Booyah's Mr. Lee said chains are topping the check-in charts by virtue of having more locations across the country. Out of MyTown's more than 300 million check-ins, he estimates 60% occur at big-brand locations vs. 40% in sole proprietors and mom-and-pop businesses.

Foursquare, which has 2.7 million users worldwide, with 60% in the U.S., reports that the most popular venues are transit-related locations such as airports and train stations, and also parks and museums. It declined to provide more specific data.

Even with its numerous quick-service check-ins, MyTown has not worked with any restaurant brands, while Foursquare has inked deals with restaurants such as Chili's Grill & Bar, Papa John's, Starbucks and Pizza Hut.

Instead, MyTown has launched programs for retailer H&M; Disney, to promote the movie "Sorcerer's Apprentice"; and package-goods brand Pantene. Pharmacies also made a good showing in MyTown's top check-in list.

By volume including duplicate check-ins by the same user, CVS has the second-most check-ins at 6.2 million. Rite Aid and Walgreens also made that top ten.

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