Is the Restaurant Recession Over? Foodable Labs Reports Social Restaurant Visits Spike in August

By Kerri Adams, Editor-at-Large

Shake Shack's Instagram 

Shake Shack's Instagram 

Today’s digitally-driven consumer is glued to their smartphones. Social media networks have been woven into the fabric of their lives. If it’s not on social media, did it even really happen?

There are over 2.3 billion social media users and because of this – 91% of retail brands have two or more social channels, according to brandwatch.com. In the last year, the total social media users have increased by a whopping 176 million and that number will only increase this year. 

And because of the consumer’s social media obsession, being able to track your customer’s social behavior, specifically their Social Restaurant Visits (SRVs) is an excellent way to measure Social ROI. 

We recorded an increase to 122.3 million in overall SRVs in the restaurant industry in August, according to Foodable Lab’s data pulled from the Restaurant Social Media Index. This is a major jump from the 109.4 million total SRVs in July. Currently, we have analyzed 508,301 total restaurant units.  

So what are SRVs? These 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 meta data. The RSMI’s proprietary methodology for SRVs digs into as many as five levels deep in a conversation to harvest the Social Restaurant Visits.

Foodable Labs looks at the entire industry, from independent to multi-unit brands. “As a group, the biggest winners in August were independent restaurant locations, which rose on average of 4.98%. This continues to be a trend for the industry. While about 60% of our data is comprised of independents, we did see some positive moves with the multi-units for the first time since March,” said Paul Barron, CEO and editor in chief at FoodableTV.com.

So what were the multi-unit brands seeing the biggest spikes in SRVs last month? Let’s take a closer look at the restaurants that received an influx of social and evidently foot traffic in August. 

Tender Greens | 8.82% Increase in August SRVs

It's Fridayyy! 🙌🏼 So have a party... for your mouth!! #tgdtsd 📸: @kaleezy

A photo posted by Tender Greens (@tendergreens) on

This California-based, better-for-you concept saw the most impressive increase in social driven guest traffic in August. Last month, the brand opened a new store in Palo Alto and this attributed to the increase in social visits. 

Besides the new store opening, Tender Greens’ food presentation makes it almost impossible for customers, especially millennials, to not document their meals for their social following. Their meals are colorful works of art with fresh veggies that deserve a mini photoshoot. 

And most of the time, these amateur food photographers are tagging their location. Then Tender Greens supports this social behavior by liking, commenting and often by sharing these visually stimulating images by fans on their own social channels, creating an on-going cycle of positive engagement.

Chick-fil-A | 5.11% Increase in August SRVs

This quick-serve brand’s marketing efforts were heavily focused on breakfast in the month of August. 

79% of total restaurant morning meals are purchased at quick-serve restaurants, according to the National Restaurant Association. With this in mind, it makes perfect sense for Chick-fil-A to promote their “Chicken for Breakfast” items. 

Not to mention, to cater to the health-conscious consumer, the brand has been emphasizing its healthier items like the Egg White Grill. This item has only 300 calories and has 25 grams of protein.  

Clearly, the focus on breakfast has been effective and part of the reason for a lift in performance in August which translated to a 5.11% increase in SRVs.  

Arby’s | 4.92% Increase in August SRVs

Arby’s has demonstrated it has a winning social strategy. 

The brand posts especially share-worthy images that get a ton of engagement. Arby’s often posts imagery pairing geek and pop culture references with their food items. It’s not uncommon for its Facebook posts to get 40k+ shares and 200K+ likes. 

The brand doesn’t just engage their followers with clever one-liners, but they take it a step further by actually listening to feedback and engaging accordingly. To put it simply, Arby’s knows how to keep the conversation going. 

Last month, the brand also upgraded its chicken sandwiches with bigger fillets in the Chicken Bacon Swiss, Chicken Cordon Bleu, Crispy Chicken and also in the new limited-time Buttermilk Buffalo Chicken Sandwich. This coupled with digital brand awareness is keeping Arby's at the top of mind which is driving Social Restaurant Visits.

With all of this in mind, the brand saw an impressive 4.92% spike in SRVs last month. 

Shake Shack | 4.87% Increase in August SRVs

Shake Shack is all about sharing user-generated images. Most social posts are pulled from photos taken by Shake Shack fans. 

“We always try to make our fans a part of our storytelling experience by posting user generated content and by interacting directly with fans who engage with us,” said Adam Shapiro, the Marketing and Community Manager. 

In August, the brand celebrated its 100th store opening by offering the first 100 guests at all 100 shacks free burgers.

Obviously, free burgers while also sharing user-generated content increases social and foot traffic. Shake Shack saw a 4.87% increase in SRVs in the month of August.  

Freshii | 4.82% Increase in August SRVs

Another better-for-you concept lands on the top SRVs list for August. Freshii received a 4.82% increase in SRVs last month. 

This hip brand is in over 75 cities in 15 countries around the world. Freshii’s target demographic are the active health-conscious millennials and this group loves to share their dining experiences on social. Again, if it didn’t happen on social, did it even happen at all?   

Freshii uses social to showcase colorful imagery, whether it be a veggie filled bowl or smoothie or team Freshii doing yoga outside. Most of the imagery is crowdsourced from customers. 

Particularly engaging brands use this social technique to validate customers, while encouraging other diners to share their own content. The restaurant chain also opened at least four new stores in August. This engaging social strategy and the buzz from the new store openings helped bring some extra social (and foot) traffic to the Freshii stores. 

Check out the other brands that saw a rise in SRVs last month.