Social Superstars: The Top 25 Brands Surging in Social Restaurant Visits

By Mae Velasco, Associate Editor

Which brands are the latest socialites taking over the digital landscape? Last month, we explored the top five brands that grew in social restaurant visits during quarter one. This time, we're back and highlighting the superstar restaurant brands that shined from March to April 2017.

To recap, why are social media insights important? Because while likes and shares may happen in virtual reality, they impact the actual reality of businesses — especially in the restaurant industry, where word of mouth and consumer opinion have a direct effect on revenue. You can talk a good game about your food all you want, but if customers say otherwise, no one will be willing to play a chance at visiting your concept.

Did you know that RetailMeNot reported that 25 percent of people have at least one restaurant app on their phones? And that a study by mobile-local ad network xAd and call measurement provider Telmetrics showed that hungry mobile users who search for food through their phones or tablets go on to make purchases at a near 90-percent conversion rate? Yup, the power of social media and mobile may seem like a few bytes, but they take a major bite out of the hospitality businesses.

So, what companies have mastered the skill of maneuvering the social media playing field and improved the most in social restaurant visits from March to April? Let's meet the top 25 restaurant brands that surged in SRVs.

How the Data Works, Defining SRVs, and Why Understanding SRVs Boosts Your Brand

These top-performing brands are not editorially selected, but are ranked based on core social consumer metrics. Foodable Labs analyzes more than 167,000 restaurant and hospitality brands daily and more than 220 million global restaurant consumers engaged in social media across over 500,000 foodservice locations.

A brand's Social Restaurant Visits Score is based, of course, on their social restaurant visits, which are actions consumers take, whether as a mention, photo share, or "check in" on a social media platform, referencing a restaurant's location in a post or within the post's geo-metadata. SRVs include a variety of data points, such as a consumer's intent to visit or a return-and-refer social mention.

But there are more layers to dive deeper into social when it comes to studying social restaurant visits. With an understanding of SRVs, brands can get a holistic view on consumer frequency, menu analysis, price perception, and guest service — all valuable knowledge in determining the next steps for your digital strategies. Are you a marketer, executive, or digital leader interested in learning more about how Foodable Labs can elevate your brand? Visit the links below.

Top 5 Brands in SRV Percentage Growths From March to April 2017

Social Restaurant Visits (SRVs) are location-based actions consumers make in relation to their engagement on social media. Foodable Labs, through the Restaurant Social Media Index (RSMI), analyzes more than 167K restaurant and hospitality brands and over 220MM global restaurant consumers across 500K foodservice locations.

Social Superstars: The Top 25 Brands That Grew in Social Restaurant Visits From March to April 2017

RANK BRAND SRV Growth
1 Sweetgreen 5.99%
2 Zoës Kitchen 5.12%
3 Freshii 4.56%
4 Dig Inn 4.49%
5 CoreLife Eatery 4.12%
6 Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar 3.91%
7 Umami Burger 3.56%
8 Grown 3.51%
9 Nektar Juice Bar 3.32%
10 Mendocino Farms 3.31%
11 Free Birds World Burrito 3.29%
12 Eureka! 3.14%
13 Flyrite Chicken 3.13%
14 Dog Haus 3.09%
15 Honeygrow 3.05%
16 Starbird 3.03%
17 Velvet Taco 2.91%
18 Veggie Grill 2.89%
19 Jason's Deli 2.88%
20 Dickey's Barbecue Pit 2.71%
21 MOOYAH Burgers, Fries & Shakes 2.65%
22 Tender Greens 2.58%
23 Smashburger 2.55%
24 Wow Bao 2.43%
25 True Food Kitchen 2.38%

Top 3 Brands With the Most SRV Percentage Growths From March to April 2017

1. Sweetgreen — Improved by 5.99 Percent

SRV Scores From Q1 2016 to Q1 2017: Sweetgreen

Sweetgreen had some sweet victories this year. It not only scored No. 1 as our brand with the most SRV growth from March to April, but this fast casual also recently landed as our top Most Loved Brand based on consumer sentiment.  

What makes Sweetgreen so iconic and why does this restaurant get so many people talking? No, it's not just because it partnered with James Beard Award-winning Chef Michael Solomonov on a limited time menu, worked with other companies to host Sweetgreen swag giveaways, or because of its newest mobile ordering app for iOS. Nor is it because of the company trendsetting the cashless movement, nor because of it taking an unashamed, unapologetic political stand by being a leader in the "Day Without Immigrants" protest. Sweetgreen, despite being a fast-growing company, is all about fostering intimacy with its customers.

“We wanted to create a company and brand around human connection,” Nathaniel Ru, co-founder and co-CEO, said to PSFK, adding that he believes food and eating are social experiences that "need to be cultivated."  

To build intimacy at a large scale, Sweetgreen promotes "following Mother Nature's lead" by creating a seasonal menu, further cementing its reputation for flexibility and innovation. And to add an extra flair of personality, each location features different music and reflects each individual city through the store's layout design.

Ru also noted that each brand can only thrive with "style and substance," as "stories are the currency for human connection." Sweetgreen does this through curating its tone and engaging with its audience on social media, promoting sustainability and originality, and resonating with the emotions of its customers. 

The brand's last focus is to be "tech-enhanced, not tech-dependent," in order to maximize efficiency without losing the focus on humanity. Sweetgreen's innovation is strategic and personalized, catapulting the chain to the top of our charts on Foodable Labs.

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2. Zoës Kitchen — Improved by 5.12 Percent

SRV Scores From Q1 2016 to Q1 2017: Zoës Kitchen

This Plano-based brand is proving the saying that everything is bigger in Texas. The Mediterranean-inspired fast casual chain doesn't just serve up chicken salad, pasta salad, and sandwiches, they serve up another kind of goodness — goodness for the soul.

Through its "Sharing Goodness" initiative, Zoës Kitchen welcomes opportunities to partner with organizations and transforming communities everywhere. 

But that's not the only goodness this company boasts. Zoës makes convenient even easier with its newest "Goodness on the Go" snack boxes. How could it get any better now that loyal customers can get Zoës on the go? Add in Zoës' latest menu — even a catering menu that features downright delicious party packs — and a fun mobile app that allows users to toy around with a fun photo booth, along with ordering online, and you have a brand that keeps consumers engaged on the digital landscape.

Want proof? Check out Zoës' feel-good social media strategy yourself. And if you want some "Mediterranean Tips," follow them on Twitter

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3. Freshii — Improved by 4.56 Percent

SRV Scores From Q1 2016 to Q1 2017: Freshii

Freshii definitely keeps things fresh. With over 300 locations across 85 cities around the globe — with as many as 840 expected by the end of 2019, and even recently expanding further into Ireland and creating 100 new jobs from 10 new restaurants — that may seem like a challenge, but Freshii has stepped up to the plate time and time again. 

This isn't the first time we've featured this fresh-forward chain on Foodable. It quickly became one of Foodable Labs' highest-scoring, emerging fast casual brands and its CEO and founder, Matthew Corrin, made gave us some food for thought in Foodable's Leadership Series. Still, Freshii is no stranger to making headlines. In fact, it stirs so much attention, that it even reported benefits of free advertising during quarter one.

How? Well, for one, this brand resonates particularly with the millennial audience through Corrin's authentic, raw, straight-forward letters to other major brands. From calling out McDonald's for its "false dichotomy" on fast food versus fresh food to proposing a partnership with Subway, Freshii thoroughly understands the power of publicity, especially on social media.

Along with Freshii's #EatEnergize movement calling for nutrient information over calorie counts, Corrin being featured on TV show "Undercover Boss," and telling the story of Ironman competitor Lionel Sanders, this bold and progressive brand dominates the game on social media. 

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