Looking back at data from the Restaurant Social Media Index (RSMI) over the past year, it has become obvious that Taco Bell and Chipotle are top runners on social. The “Live Mas” brand claimed No. 1 status on our RSMI Overall Top 250 for both Q1 and Q2 of 2013, while Chipotle stole the top spot in Q3 and Q4. However, Q1 2014 data shows that both brands have taken a tumble, putting them in the bottom-half of the Top 10.
Stealing the limelight, with a Social Score of 403.17 out of 500 total points, is Subway, which we saw climb a bit last quarter to No. 4. There have been quite a few brand shifts for Q1 2014 — check out the full Top 10 list below.
What is the RSMI & How Does it Work?
The RSMI, developed by digital agency DigitalCoCo, is the industry’s most comprehensive Index with domain expertise, tracking millions of U.S. — and soon to be International — social restaurant consumers across 17 social platforms in more than 218,000 locations. While RSMI data has always been based on three major components — influence, sentiment, and engagement — two new elements have been incorporated, as of this quarter, into a brand’s Social Score: mobile and location-based actions. This brings a restaurant brand’s total possible score from 300 to now 500. Find more info on how each of the five components works here.
Overall Top 10 Restaurant Brands: Q1 2014
Subway: Coming in at No. 1 for the first time is Subway. This may come as a shock to some, considering the “Eat Fresh” brand dealt with a some controversy earlier this year regarding a chemical in its bread. Subway publicly announced it would discontinue using this ingredient and handled the critics well. That aside, let’s take a look back at Subway’s #JanuANY campaign. The campaign introduced $5 footlongs to most sandwiches on the menu. And who doesn’t love a good deal? Under the #JanuANY campaign were many different promos, including Vines, and a select day that anyone who tweeted with the #JanuANY hashtag would be responded to with a GIF. The day after #JanuANY ended, Subway introduced the Fritos Chicken Enchilada Melt. At the end of February, another new addition was introduced on the menu: The Flatizza, a customizable flatbread pizza creation. It’s also important to note that Subway has begun rolling out mobile ordering and mobile payments in its California test market, which also could have affected consumer sentiment on social.
RSMI Social Score: 403.17 | Twitter followers: 1.9M | Facebook fans: 27M | Klout Score: 82
McDonald’s: McD’s holds steady at No. 2. From adding more customizable options to its menu in Q4 to its modern, more visual aesthetic on Facebook, McD’s has undoubtedly shifted toward the new generation to keep its classic brand status intact. In addition, a huge announcement at the beginning of the year revealed that McDonald’s will begin using sustainable beef in 2016. Other big moves in the brand’s favor? Since Taco Bell gained a lot of Millennial kudos by jumping on Snapchat, McDonald’s promptly followed suit at the end of February. Additionally, the rollout of a new “Dollar Menu & More” brings more interactive design elements to the table, as well as more menu offerings, which you can see here. If you’re looking for more breakfast options, McDonald’s now offers pastries (to further compete with Starbucks for morning traffic, perhaps?). And it definitely doesn’t hurt that LeBron James is helping to promote some of the fast food chain’s new menu items.
RSMI Social Score: 402.19 | Twitter followers: 2.28M | Facebook fans: 30M | Klout Score: 96
Panera Bread: Panera climbed six spots to No. 3. It wasn’t until last quarter that the brand made it back into the Top 10 for the first time since 2012. Most recently, Panera announced a $42 million makeover, dubbed Panera 2.0, that will include digital and mobile ordering, as well as in-store ordering kiosks. The brand will also be upgrading its menu to include naan-style flatbread sandwiches with new international flavor profiles — Southwestern chicken, Mediterranean chicken, and Thai chicken among them. As far as their social presence, Panera kicked the year off with a “Panera Lose It! Challenge” to promote its healthy offerings and to give followers/guests a sense of community while trying to stick with their New Year’s goals. Those who signed up to participate in the Challenge were automatically entered to win prizes, like a Caribbean vacation getaway. Through social, Panera sprinkled in a lot of healthy living tips and posted a lot of questions revolving around fitness and nutrition for followers to engage with. The theme of Panera’s Q1 social strategy was definitely involving the customer as part of the brand.
RSMI Social Score: 400.68 | Twitter followers: 261K | Facebook fans: 2.5M | Klout Score: 83
Some other notable brand moves in the Top 250 this quarter include Rubio’s Fresh Mexican Grill and Zoës Kitchen, both jumping 39 spots; Raising Cane’s, climbing 56 spots; and Native Foods Cafe, jumping up 59 spots. View the full Top 250 list here. You can also submit your brand to the RSMI here.
Jessica Bryant is a digital brand analyst for DigitalCoCo and leads research for the Social Insights platform. DigitalCoCo is the leading firm for social consumer research and digital brand development for the restaurant and hospitality business. Bryant is a seasoned researcher with a specialty toward consumer trends and culture shifts in the restaurant business.