The Q4 2013 Restaurant Social Media Index (RSMI) data is officially in, and, as usual, there are quite a few notable brands that have shifted in the rankings. Back in Q3, we reported that Chipotle stole the throne from Taco Bell in the Overall Top 250 list, and that still remains. But two restaurant brands finally made their way into the Top 10, kicking off Sonic and Jimmy John’s. Check out the full Top 10 list below.

How It Works

The RSMI, owned by digital agency DigitalCoCo, is a social media index with domain expertise that tracks three main elements — influence, sentiment and engagement — across 17 social platforms. Currently, the Index tracks more than 56 million U.S. social restaurant consumers in more than 212,000 locations. Aside from the Overall Top 250, the RSMI filters data into four specific categories each quarter. For Top Mobile Brands, we filter mobile social transactions and look at how mobile interactions impact brand engagement. Top Social Sentiment focuses on consumer sentiment toward brands, and is based on our more than 147,000 key industry terms revolving around food, service and overall brand. Location-Based Activity analyzes social ROI through density, frequency, return & refer, and sentiment from a location-based action. And finally, for Top Social Engagement, we analyze unsolicited engagement and peripheral engagement with extended conversations. Learn more about how the Index works.

Top 10 Restaurant Brands: Q4 2013

1. Chipotle: Chipotle is a great example of a lifestyle brand – from its food to its solid social team (whose names you probably know) to its events (see Cultivate Festival). This month, Chipotle is releasing an original comedy series on Hulu, called “Farmed and Dangerous.” Aside from being involved in various events — a pop-up booth at NYWFF, for example — we saw a lot of additional push in Q4 from Chipotle. The brand partnered with the Huffington Post for a recurring “Food for Thought” column, which focuses on food transparency, sustainability, food waste, farming, and recalls, to name a few topics. Also in Q4, Chipotle introduced Sofritas to its menu, giving vegans another option. Currently, the brand has more than 2.1 million Facebook fans and more than 316,000 Twitter followers. Klout Score: 76; RSMI Social Score: 250.66

2. McDonald’s: A usual Top 10 contender, the Golden Arches brand bounced back to No. 2 after slipping the past few quarters. With an Overall Social Score of 248.89, McDonald’s rose with some major marketing shifts, despite negative press regarding the brand’s nutrition level (or lack thereof). In fact, McD’s spun this into an opportunity. In October, Corporate announced the brand would offer a side salad, fruit or veggies in place of French fries as part of its Value Meals. Not even a month later, McDonald’s launched a promotion that outfitted Happy Meals with books, just in time for National Family Literacy Day. But that’s not all — McDonald’s is testing a Build-Your-Own-Burger model in a couple of its markets, and has even promised consumers that it will offer sustainable beef patties in all locations by the end of 2016. McDonald’s currently has more than 30 million Facebook fans and more than 2.2 million Twitter followers. Klout Score: 79; RSMI Social Score: 248.89

3. Taco Bell: Simply put, Taco Bell is a cool brand that understands Millennials. They are always willing to try new things on social depending on where their customers — which they specifically call “friends” — are, and this flexibility is a huge advantage. In Q4, Taco Bell kicked off a World Hunger Relief campaign; hosted Meet Ups at their HQ, which brought friends together; rolled out more “Feed the Beat” sessions; helped said friends out with prom proposals; and frequently interacted with Taco-Bell-loving celebs, like Chrissy Teigen. (They even sent her a handwritten note to congratulate her engagement.) Taco Bell currently has more than 10 million Facebook fans and more than a million Twitter followers. Klout Score: 92; RSMI Social Score: 246.58

4. Subway

5. Buffalo Wild Wings

6. Starbucks

7. Wendys

8. Firehouse Subs

9. Panera Bread

10. Hard Rock Cafe

Many brands held onto the Top 10, though, as you can see above, Firehouse Subs and Panera Bread made their way into Top 10 status, kicking out Sonic (No. 13) and Jimmy John’s (No. 11). View the full Top 250 Overall brands for Q4, or submit your brand into the Index.

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.

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2 Responses to “2 big brands fall off RSMI Top 10 rankings, replaced by new contenders”

  1. Mike says:

    Taco Bell may move up the list, with the introduction of a new breakfast menu.

    • Jessica Bryant says:

      Agreed, Mike. Taco Bell is doing some awesome things with their digital marketing, so it'll be interesting to see where they land for Q1.