NetBase Report Finds Taco Bell the Top Performing Restaurant Brand on Social Media in 2017

The Brand Edged out Chick-fil-A, Domino's Pizza, Olive Garden and Wendy's for First Place; Quick Service Restaurants Generate the Most Passion with Eight of the Top Ten Spots

Oct 16, 2017 - 14:20

NetBase released its 2017 Restaurant Brands Report today. The study found consumers are most passionate about Taco Bell, Chick-fil-A, Domino's Pizza, Olive Garden, Wendy's, Dunkin' Donuts, Starbucks, McDonalds, Panera Bread and Subway. The report utilized social media brand performance to determine the top 100 global brands in the quick service, fast casual and casual dining industries. It analyzed more than 187 billion social media mentions in order to translate and package these conversations into digestible insights that illustrate the trends, emotions and passions that drive diners to restaurants.

“It takes more than great food to truly engage consumers and turn them into passionate advocates. Restaurant patrons make their choices with emotion; they’re driven by stories and experiences of thousands of friends, strangers, and influencers,” said Paige Leidig, chief marketing officer at NetBase. “We find that consumers are looking for the same things regardless of the type of restaurant – good service and authenticity.”

While McDonalds was the most-discussed brand, it only earned the #8 spot. Taco Bell ranked the highest in overall brand performance due to passionate customers and content that resonates with their audience. Taco Bell found success with food influencer programs, relevant brand partnerships such as teaming with Microsoft for an Xbox One giveaway and new products, especially those targeted at ketogenic and low carb dieters.

Key findings Include:

  • Quick Service (QS) Domination: Quick service restaurants held around 74 percent of the conversation volume. In comparison, Fast Casual held 10 percent and Casual Dining establishments accounted for about 15 percent of the total conversation. While Fast Casual may not have as much of a spotlight as QS, Fast Casual was the leader in Brand Passion Index (BPI) and Net Sentiment (NS) with scores of around 45 BPI and 70 NS. Comparatively, QS has scores of 35 BPI and 53 NS while Casual Dining has a 41 BPI and 61 NS.
  • Diners Like Bad Girls: While many brands like #2 Chick-fil-A focus their social media persona around the positive, Wendy’s found success by zigging when everyone else was zagging. Wendy’s came in at #5 overall by playing the “bad girl” on social media with its new-found attitude. Several fans even asked to get roasted, bringing the company lots of attention.
  • Breadsticks Battle: Diners’ passion for Olive Garden’s breadsticks were a major factor in its #4 ranking. The appetizer alone had more mentions than many entire brands. However, Texas Roadhouse was the third most mentioned term for Olive Garden due to a feud between Roadhouse Rolls or Olive Garden Breadsticks.
  • Tumblr and Twitter: While Twitter is by far the most active channel for conversations about restaurants, Tumblr is also a notable source of discussion about food. Most top brands having more conversation on Tumblr than Instagram. Lacking a Tumblr strategy forsakes a big opportunity to connect with customers.
  • Millennials: In the coveted millennial demographic, the report found conversations about restaurants are similar to the public as a whole. Data from 500,000 millennials shows relative passion intensity and net sentiment among the top 10 brands were similar to the rest of the social media population.

To secure deeper business insights, NetBase drilled down deeper than overall brand sentiment by categorizing conversations around different themes, segmenting the conversation by Order Accuracy, Cleanliness, Hospitality, Menu Selection, Quality, and Value. Looking into these themes can help understand the content of high volume conversation. These conversations are often shared with friends instead of directed at brands, making these insights valuable to drive internal initiatives to improve and address customer feedback.

Read the full NetBase 2017 Restaurant Brands Industry Report online here.


NetBase opted for a selection of specific representative brands across multiple categories rather than an exhaustive list. Data focuses on the 365 days leading up to September 1, 2017. Given the origin of restaurants discussed, the majority of conversation occurred in the USA. Indexing and social ranking is an average measure of actual position for each metric, with the largest, most positive, or most passionate brands ranking first.

NetBase used the following metrics for the report:

  • Volume of conversation – Overall volume of conversation.
  • Reach – Impressions from original tweets posted by a brand and any replies to or retweets of the brand. This is a measure of “owned” impressions.
  • Awareness – Impressions from all tweets that mention a brand, excluding those that are classified as owned tweets. This is a measure of “earned” impressions.
  • Passion Intensity – Indicating how strongly consumers feel about a brand on a scale of 0-100.
  • Net Sentiment – Measuring the overall direction of consumers’ feelings toward a brand on a scale of -100 to +100.
  • Brand Passion Index (BPI) – Weighted average of Passion Intensity and Net Sentiment to represent overall favorability. This is the first year including the Brand Passion Index.