By Kerri Adams, Editor-at-Large
Foodable Labs is tracking the restaurant industry on social 24/7.
If you are not familiar with the Restaurant Social Media Index, it tracks consumer social data through five tracking categories- Sentiment, Influence, Engagement, Social Restaurant Visits, and Mobile Engagement.
Social Restaurant Visits (SRVs) are particularly important because it’s an excellent way to measure Social ROI.
SRVs include a variety of data points for direct social visits, intent to visit or a return & refer mention. This can be when a customer mentions, takes a picture, or performs a "check in" on social media referencing a restaurant’s location either in the post or it's recorded in the geo-metadata.
The RSMI’s proprietary methodology for SRVs digs into as many as five levels deep in a conversation to harvest the Social Restaurant Visits.
To put it simply, if a restaurant brand is seeing an increase in SRVs, the stores are evidently seeing an increase in foot traffic.
In July, Nation’s Restaurant News released the 2016 Hot Concept award winners. Five emerging restaurant concepts are editorially selected to be featured. We decided to take a closer look at these concepts in relation to their SRVs.
Honeygrow | Saw a 4.67% Increase in SRVs in July and August
This Philly-based, better-for-you fast casual brand has eight locations so far.
Honeygrow has a community-focused approach on social and has an active blog often featuring local Philly artists, farms, coffee shops, and even manufacturing companies.
The brand uses social to promote a healthy lifestyle, by consistently sponsoring workouts with local fitness gurus. There is even a HG runclub and following a run event, participants get 25% off on a meal at Honeygrow.
In July, there are a series of special Democracy-themed run to incorporate the 2016 Democratic National Convention. The restaurant's evidently saw a spike, specifically a 4.67% increase in social traffic in July because of the convention. Six Honeygrow stores were near the location of the convention and the brand actively promoted this on social.
Naf Naf Grill | Saw a 1.89% Increase in SRVs in July and August
This Illinois-based concept with humble beginnings, now has 20 stores in multiple states.
"Naf Naf Grill is a restaurant company on a mission to popularize the best staples of Middle Eastern food. Made-from-scratch pitas, hand-cut salads, and freshly prepared sauces are all served as an accompaniment to award-winning shawarma and falafel," according to the brand’s website.
In July, another store in Chicago and in Minneapolis was opened and the grill celebrated with free pitas. Apparently, free pitas bring people into stores. Naf Naf Grill saw a 1.89% spike in SRVs in July and August, a time that is notoriously slow for restaurants.
Nekter Juice Bar | Saw a 3.89% Increase in SRVs in July and August
This on-the-go concept has 58 store locations. The concept is much more than juice, smoothies and Açaí bowls are also available.
As a healthy lifestyle brand, Nekter Juice Bar has an active blog that often features nutrition and fitness focused articles like fun facts about watermelon, what to buy at Sprouts (a farmer's market,) how to keep your legs fit, how to get glowing skin, and fun water sports to try.
The brand also uses social to promote campaigns like the one they did in the beginning of July when they gave away free sunglasses to the first 50 guests who purchased either a smoothie, juice or bowl on July 4th.
Nekter also launched their mobile app in July. Users who downloaded the app received an instant Watermelon Cooler award. All of these promotions attributed to the major 3.89% spike in SRVs the brand saw in July and August.
The Little Beet | Saw a 2.28% Increase in SRVs in July and August
We have been tracking The Little Beet for awhile and featured the brand on Fast Casual Nation in June 2015. This better-for-you concepts declares itself as “100 percent Guiltin’ Free” and has a simple mission, “to serve real food deliciously.” So far, there are five NY locations and one store in DC.
This fast casual concept proves consumers don’t have to settle for an unhealthy option because it's usually is more affordable. The Little Beet has a seasonal, locally-sourced and gluten-free menu with the average check under $12.
The brand uses social to artistically display their menu. With colorful images of their food, often crowd sourced by diners. The brand encourages the sharing of user-generated content with the hashtag #FEELTHEBEET, an on-going social contest where participants have a chance to win a free lunch for two.
July and August were particularly good months for the brand, with a 2.28% increase in SRVs.
Velvet Taco | Saw a 1.98% Increase in SRVs in July and August
This edgy gourmet taco concept has four locations, three in Texas and one in Chicago. The brand has the Weekly Taco Feature (WTF,) a new taco is highlighted every week.
“PS - Cool things about the world inside Velvet Taco:
we make our own tortillas, slow roast our own
chicken and corn, and make everything from
scratch which makes our food taste really
awesome. We use fresh fruit and sorbets in
our margaritas... also awesome.
Oh and we recycle. Come in and see us," according to the Taco restaurant's website.
It’s safe to say that Velvet Taco has distinctive style.
The restaurant often uses social to alert their taco-lovin’ fan of the WTF and craft beer selections.
In July, the brand had a Pokemon Go themed contest and also a charitable campaign from July 14-17, where 10% of sales were donated to the Officer Foundation.
Like all the other concepts mentioned above, Velvet Taco also saw a spike in SRVs for the July and August summer months.
So there you have it, our SRV data shows that these concepts are in fact "hot." But, these weren't the only brands that had a great summer. These restaurant brands had the most impressive SRV spikes this summer.