By Jessica Bryant, Managing Editor
Revealed earlier this year, Foodable’s premier Five Star Awards rank the best operators, brands, and leaders in the restaurant industry based on social media intelligence from Foodable Labs in conjunction with the Restaurant Social Media Index.
Last night, the Foodable Five Star Award winners were announced at a special awards ceremony in San Diego as part of the National Restaurant Association’s annual Restaurant Innovation Summit.
Without further ado, we present to you the five winners of the night:
Foodable Digital Star
Measuring overall excellence in mobile and location-based actions, the Foodable Digital Star award recognizes brands with the highest trending engagement on mobile and location-based technology. That is, the award measures the tech that allows guests to interact with restaurants for everything from reservations to reviews to loyalty.
The three finalists for this Foodable Star award were Panera Bread, Firehouse Subs, and Sonic Drive-In. And with a score of 96.45 out of 100 points, Sonic takes the award for its digital endeavors.
The fast-food concept first dipped its toes into mobile waters in 2011 when it partnered with OLO to test mobile ordering. In 2013, CARDFREE announced that Sonic had selected it as a mobile commerce platform. Sonic’s mobile app, called My Sonic, lets customers manage their birthday freebies and print offers, and gives guests the option to receive news and exclusive offers via text. In Q2 2015, Sonic rolled out mobile games for kids to keep this young demographic entertained.
Foodable Service Star
The Service Star award measures the highest excellence in service sentiment. This award honors the cornerstone of the restaurant industry, service, and is determined on a variety of key elements, including the 25 points of service in the Foodable Labs system.
The three finalists for this Foodable Star award were Abacus in Dallas, Mastro’s Steakhouse in Beverly Hills, and Work & Class in Denver. Mastro’s Steakhouse wins the award with a score of 183.11 out of 200 points for its consistent, top-notch service.
With white tablecloths donning the spacious dining room and exposed brick throughout, Mastro’s is a sleek steakhouse with locations in Arizona, California, Illinois, Nevada, New York, and Washington, D.C. According to its website, the chain is continuously recognized for their world-class service, as well as cuisine and atmosphere. Skim through this location’s Yelp reviews, and some recurring phrases when it comes to service are “prompt,” “5-star,” and “excellent.”
Foodable Culinary Star
The Culinary Star award measures the highest excellence in food sentiment. It delivers beyond consumer expectations and is determined based on the analysis of 160K culinary terms, menu items, and brand terms from Foodable Labs’ insights.
The three finalists for this Foodable Star award were Marc Forgione in New York City, RPM Steak in Chicago, and Sinatra in Las Vegas. Sinatra, a true Italian fine-dine restaurant located in the Wynn Hotel, receives this award with a score of 185.52 out of 200 points.
The restaurant, an ode to the late, great Frank, is helmed by Chef Theo Schoenegger, who grew up in Italy at his parents’ restaurant. While other kids were enjoying summer vacation, Schoenegger enjoyed it in the restaurant.
At Sinatra, Schoenegger brings modern style to traditional Italian dishes, historically proven hits. Menu items include dishes such as Branzino (Mediterranean sea bass, haricot vert, fingerling potatoes, tomato, yellow pepper emulsion, and salsa verde), Ossobuco “My Way” (braised veal ossobuco, risotto Milanese, and gremolata), and Agnolotti (small pockets filled with butternut squash, sage, brown butter, and Parmesan).
Foodable Leadership Star
While all of the other Foodable Star awards are based solely on data, the Leadership Star award is determined by both social and digital performance, as well as by a selection committee. The award measures the highest performance by an executive, operator, or chef in digital brand leadership. The manual selection portion is scored based on 10 performance points. The Leadership Star award is the ultimate honor in a new age of performance metrics for brands and leaders alike.
The three finalists for this Foodable Star award were Mark Crumpacker, the chief marketing and development officer at Chipotle Mexican Grill, Randy Garutti, CEO at Shake Shack, and Nicolas Jammet, co-founder and co-CEO at Sweetgreen. With a score of 94.80 out of 100 points, Chipotle’s Mark Crumpacker wins this award.
An industry leader, Chipotle is a brand often referred to as being the benchmark for the fast-casual industry. This year, Chipotle has gone through its ups and downs: it’s been under fire for unclear marketing in regards to its GMO-free menu, resulting in a lawsuit. It has also adopted delivery via a Postmates partnership. But no matter, Crumpacker and his team have helped to build a brand that sticks to its guns no matter what. This includes the decision to not adopt a loyalty system, something Crumpacker says will not impact Chipotle’s bottom line much. Mobile payments, he has said, will be the brand’s biggest opportunity to gather information about its customers. Chipotle’s marketing is advanced, as we’ve seen in their usage over the years in digital video and gamification. At the end of the day, Crumpacker understands the importance of not trying to be all things to all people.
Foodable Brand Star
The big daddy of them all, the Foodable Brand Star award is this year’s most coveted Five Star award, and represents the highest excellence in overall sentiment. This award represents the best-in-class of food, service, and brand measured by social consumer sentiment. This award recognizes top-level performance in all areas of a consumer dining experience.
The three finalists of this award were Chick-fil-A, Chipotle Mexican Grill, and Panera Bread. And with a score of 92.15 out of 100 points, Chick-fil-A takes it.
The chicken-centric fast food chain, which also took No. 1 in Foodable’s Top National Brands for Q2, is a brand that engages with its customer base frequently on social. In Q1, Chick-fil-A rolled out a new Frosted Lemonade drink, a combination of fresh-squeezed lemonade and the brand’s Ice Dream soft serve, a once-secret mashup that employees would frequently concoct for themselves. An Atlanta store even filmed a rap video about it. Aside from various product rollouts throughout the year, including grilled chicken nuggets, a market salad, and a peach milkshake, the brand has been positioning itself as more of a “lifestyle” brand than just a restaurant chain. Its Inside Chick-fil-A microsite, a digital native content platform for the brand, features articles authored by experts on everything from Millennial leadership tips to outdoor entertaining advice.
The restaurant industry is filled with competition, and that competition continues to grow as more scalable, mobile options enter the space, offering less overhead to launch a concept. The main components that make up a successful brand — digital presence, service quality, food, and the leadership behind these brands — will weigh heavy on a brand’s overall success, and the Foodable Five Star Awards will continue to report on those advancing above the rest.
How does your restaurant brand stack up against the competition? Find out by submitting your brand to be considered for the next Foodable Five Star Awards at firstname.lastname@example.org.