Wendy's (WEN -0.42%), what took you so long? Today, the burger chain announced it was finally launching a national loyalty program.

Years after both McDonald's and Restaurant Brands International's Burger King started similar programs to reward loyal customers, Wendy's has launched the Wendy's Rewards loyalty program, which will let consumers earn free food by accumulating points.

Wendy's rewards program on smartphone

Image source: Wendy's.

Better late than never

Customers need to download the Wendy's app to keep track of the points earned, but no matter how an order is placed (other than through a third-party delivery provider), points are earned for every item ordered. 

Customers can either use the mobile app to place the order and have the points automatically added to their account, or scan the QR code at the counter or pickup window. For every $1 spent on food, the customer will earn 10 points, with chances to earn bonus points on certain items from time to time.

To kick off the program, Wendy's is awarding double points on the first order made for a limited time.

Yet the burger chain is very late to the game. Burger King was actually one of the very first companies to start a loyalty program, launching one way back in 2002, though it was more like an airline's frequent flier program, and has evolved over the years. Last year, it launched a $5-a-month coffee subscription program. McDonald's launched its own rewards initiative, the McCafe Rewards program, back in 2016, and Starbucks has what's considered the industry gold standard in loyalty programs.

Wendy's says customers will also be able to continue taking advantage of promotions that appear in the mobile app and earn points based on the before-tax amount they pay after the discount is applied.