The Top 25 Restaurant Chains in America


Published: July 12, 2012
Length: 264 pages, 100+ charts
Author: Jon Samsel, editor & co-founder
Format: PDF instant download (no hard copy)

Brands Featured in this Report 
Applebee's, Bennigan's, Benihana, BJ's Restaurant, Bob Evans, California Pizza Kitchen, Capital Grille, Carrabba's Italian Grill, The Cheesecake Factory, Chili's, Denny's, Fazolies, Joe's Crab Shack, Logans Roadhouse, Macaroni Grill, McCormick & Schmicks, Morton's, Olive Garden, Outback Steakhouse, Red Lobster, Red Robin, Smokey Bones, Souplantation, Texas Roadhouse, Yard House.


Food is an American pastime as well as a fervent daily ritual. It's also a multi-billion dollar industry employing hundreds of thousands of employees across all 50 states. 
Restaurant chains are typically defined as a collection of related eateries utilizing the same name across many different geographic locations that are either under shared corporate ownership or operate as franchises. A full service restaurant is an establishment in which customers place their order with a waitress, served their meal at their table, and pay at the end of their meal.

This report examines the digital footprints of the top 25 full service restaurant chains. Unlike other well-known researchers we did not examine customer opinions or satisfaction with particular brands. Instead, we studied how effective each brand performed according to over 800 online marketing metrics and best practices.  This report is based on measurable performance data, not opinions.

To get to our top 25 brands, we researched over 100 restaurant chains. Chili's was named the most effective brand in the group, scoring higher than all listed competitors, including Denny's, Olive Garden, and Applebee's.

Chili's's brand health score of 636 out of 1,000 possible points beat its nearest competitor, Denny's, by 6 points, or 0.94%, and surpassed third place Olive Garden by 10 points, or 1.57%. The gap between Chili's and lowest-ranked Macaroni Grill was 151 points, or 23.74%.

So how did Chili's rise to the position of category leader? Three areas of competence caught our attention: 

1) search engine optimization
2) social media participation and fan base
3) mobile optimization

In addition to, Chili's maintains a strong social media presence in Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, along with testing location-based channels such as FourSquare and mobile (mobile coupons, mobile advertising to boost ordering via smartphones, and charity awareness via mobile bar codes printed on menus).

The Top 100 Restaurant Chains in America

All of the above brands were ranked by online brand health score using the Heardable platform. 

Table of Contents

Executive Summary
Social Media Assessment
Content Sharing Assessment
Measurement Assessment
Website Usability Assessment
Search Assessment
Top 10 Brands: A Closer Look
About Heardable

Report length: 264 pages

Analyst Quote

"Chili's has utilized the essential online branding tools of community management, customer service and content outreach to emerge as a leader in the full service restaurant category," said Gunther Sonnenfeld, Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer of Heardable, Inc. "Chili's understands that the value of its service product extends far beyond calorie counts, specialty food items and discounts -- it sees its business value in the direct relationships it builds with its customer base, and it shows. Congrats to the restaurant chain and its franchise owners."

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