What does it take to be a winning restaurant brand today? If brands are being endorsed by consumers, then they must know how to keep their customers happy. Having satisfied customers starts with knowing what your customers want and then delivering a solid product on a consistent basis. This is way easier to say then it is to do, even more of a reason to applaud these brands that are winning.
In a recently published “2013 Consumer Picks” special report presented by Nation’s Restaurant News, 154 restaurant chains were ranked by consumers. Four winners distinguished themselves in consumer’s opinions, the ranking segmented restaurant chains by category. Regardless of the restaurant category, each concept performed well in three major criteria that consumers valued; food quality, value and service.
Which Restaurant Brands are Winning in the Eyes of Consumers?
- Limited-Service: In-N-Out Burger
- Family Dining: Cracker Barrel Old Country Store
- Casual-Dining: The Cheesecake Factory
- Fine-Dining: Ruth’s Chris Steak House
While some of these concepts are regional and therefore everyone may not be familiar with the brands, I will assure you that none of these restaurants come as a surprise to me. In my opinion, one of the strengths of each of the winning brands is their clear understanding of who their customer is. No matter how good your food is, you still have to deliver a total product that is right for your audience. While these brands make it look easy, winning doesn’t come easy for every restaurant.
Don’t All Brands Know Who Their Customers Are?
Knowing your current customer and knowing your target consumer are two very different things. Sometimes your actual customer is not who you thought they would be. Understanding an audience takes more than research and statistics. To truly understand your audience you have to appreciate them first. You need to engage with them and listen to what they are telling you. Winning restaurant brands are willing to evolve if that is what it takes to better serve their customers.
A perfect example would be Cracker Barrel’s new Wholesome Fixin’s® Menu. Some might argue that the new healthier menu is a departure from the brand’s foundation built on Homestyle Cooking. Obviously the consumers agree with the new menu offering since the brand has maintained their segment rank as number one in the category. Thumbs up to Cracker Barrel for listening to their audience, then responding in a way that felt natural and right for the Cracker Barrel brand.
Winning With Loyalty
Besides having satisfied customers, each of the winning brands maintain a relationship with their loyal and supportive customers. Loyalty is even more critical now with social media and user-generated content, consumers have become valuable influencers for their favorite brands. Social media allows loyal customers to share their allegiance and endorse their preferred brands to friends and followers. The power of social has created a movement where consumers trust peer-to-peer recommendation more than they do advertising. Restaurant brands especially need to capitalize on this cultural shift and reap the rewards of digital brand loyalty.
Do Customers Really Want Social Restaurant Brands?
Some brands can be built on cult followings and secret menus, In-N-Out is one of those brands. I absolutely love In-N-Out. I rarely miss a chance when I am back out West to grab a double-double, even though I no longer live close to an In-N-Out Burger I have maintained a relationship with the brand.
Eating a meal is one of the most social things we do, and sharing our experiences with friends and followers has pretty much become common place. So if you are a restaurant brand that is struggling you might want to rethink your involvement in social media. When brands are actively engaged in social media and content marketing they are awarded with consistent feedback on how they are doing.
Are Winning Restaurant Brands Also Winning On Social Media?
- In-N-Out’s Facebook Page is over 3 million fans strong
- On Twitter @crackerbarrel has 44k+ followers and 1.2 million fans on Facebook
- Cheesecake Factory’s Facebook Page has more than 4 million loyal fans with another 120k+ @cheesecake on Twitter
- Ruth’s Chris has almost 27k fans on Facebook
As you can see, these brands knew they were winning well before being validated by this year’s Consumer Picks report. When brands take the time to listen to their customers and deliver a product that is right for their audience, you have a winning recipe.
Can you think of other restaurant brands that are winning on social media?