MRM Research Roundup: Mid-Year 2019 Edition

This edition of Modern Restaurant Management (MRM) magazine's Research Roundup features the impact of LSM,  the growth of digital restaurant orders, plant-based food's growing audience and top cities for craft beer. 

LSM Benchmark Report

The Local Search Association (LSA) and SOCi, launched the first-ever Localized Social Marketing Benchmark Report (LSM Benchmark Report).  The project examined the top franchise brands and their performance in LSM and concluded the top 10 brand performers are growing three times faster than their category peers based on a five-year trend of each brand’s revenue growth rate.

The collaborative research was designed to help marketers understand the impact of localized social marketing (LSM) to their respective businesses while providing good examples of what effective LSM looks like to help set a benchmark of success for practicing marketers. 

Now more than ever, localized social marketing is a key driver in consumer behavior. According to Social Media Today, 78 percent of purchase decisions are influenced by social content and more than 75 percent of brand engagement is happening on local pages. Further, while ratings and reviews have always been important, consumers now consider these as the number one influence on their purchases– 71 percent of consumers read reviews before every purchase and this increases to over 80 percent for consumers ages 18-35. What these consumer behaviors and the key findings from the LSM Benchmark Report make clear, a localized social marketing strategy needs to be a core component of any franchise brands’ overall marketing strategy.

“Over the last decade, social media has quickly become an integral part of our daily lives and its evolution has provided businesses a vehicle to truly interact with fans, followers, and customers on a more personalized and local level. This vehicle provides brands the opportunity to personally engage with each and every consumer and create true brand advocates,” said Monica Ho, CMO, SOCi. “To keep pace with this trend, social media platforms are providing a growing list of features and functionalities, such as reviews, social conversations, and local Business Pages that now enable what we have come to call Localized Social Marketing. Our new benchmark finally enables marketers to understand the tactics and strategies that lead to an effective LSM presence and why this matters. Even more so, the Benchmark ensures marketers are able to better understand the true impact of there social media marketing investments on businesses’ overall revenue growth.”

The LSM Benchmark studied three key areas of Localized Social Marketing including the brands’ localized presence, customer care in the form of local ratings and reviews, and local community engagement. The result is a clear understanding of what success looks like (or benchmark) in LSM for the franchise marketing category overall and by specific industries. Based on the research results, the top 10 brands in Localized Social Marketing today are as follows:

● McAlister’s Deli

● Courtyard by Marriott

● Culver's

● Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburgers

● Holiday Inn Express

● The Camp Transformation Center

● Blaze Pizza

● Crunch Franchise

● Planet Fitness

● The Learning Experience Academy of Early Education

“Localized Social Marketing is the key for multi-location businesses to compete and win in a world dominated by e-commerce and Amazon,” said Greg Sterling, VP of Strategy & Insights, Local Search Association. “When done effectively, it can propel brands to the top of organic search results, build and maintain a highly engaged base of loyal customers and drive increased traffic and, ultimately, sales to local businesses.”

The research studied a total of 163 Franchise brands included on The Franchise Times Top 100 Largest Franchises List and/or appeared on Entrepreneur's list of the 100 fastest growing franchises. Covering ten industries including food and beverage, hotels, retail (general), business services, auto parts, home services, real estate, education, personal care, and retail (convenience), each franchise was ranked on a 100-point scale. Scoring was determined by examining a random selection of locations for each brand on top LSM platforms including Google My Business, Facebook and Yelp. As a result, the research evaluated 16,000+ individual locations and a total of more than 50,000 local pages. To download a copy of the LSM Benchmark Report, visit this link.

Growth of Digital Ordering

The growing access to foodservice delivery has garnered lots of attention from the marketplace and media, but while delivery grabs the spotlight, digital restaurant orders overall steadily grow by double-digits, reports The NPD Group.

Restaurant digital orders, which are defined by meals or snacks ordered via mobile app, internet, or text message, have grown by 23 percent over the past four years and now represent 3.1 billion visits and $26.8 billion dollars. NPD forecasts digital orders to continue to grow by double-digits through 2020 with growth across all service modes including delivery, on premises, and carryout, according to NPD’s Delivering Digital Convenience report.

Although convenience is understandably the top reason consumers choose digital ordering, other top reasons include: no waiting; the ability to order, pay, and have it ready; ordering at my “own” pace; and earning rewards/feeling valued. In addition to these reasons, since mobile apps represent 60 percent of digital orders, users of leading restaurant brand apps are also drawn to other motivations, like saving money, customizing orders, ordering on the way, and earning rewards. 

Loyalty rewards in particular have been successful for restaurant brands in getting customers to keep using their apps. These type of loyalty programs offer a compelling reason for consumers to carry a larger number of restaurant apps on their phones, helping to ensure the success of newer entrants in gaining mobile phone real estate. An app on a phone helps increase usage because it’s top-of-mind when a consumer is deciding what and where to order. 

“Digital ordering has raised the bar on convenience and with it the customer experience,” said David Portalatin, NPD food industry advisor and author of Eating Patterns in America. “Digital ordering overall and apps have provided a path to market to consumers on a one-to-one basis and offer them a restaurant experience customized to their needs.”    

Plant-Based Generational Views

Impossible Foods released findings from a white paper exploring generational differences in attitudes towards plant-based foods. 

Hot off the heels of its 2019 Impact Report highlighting the cultural and research-driven awakening that is finally linking climate, biodiversity and food, this white paper was commissioned by Impossible Foods and completed by Harman Atchison Research Group — an independent, third-party research firm.

The survey shows striking differences among age groups, most notably that younger people are far more likely to eat plant-based meat than older generations. The trend is quickly accelerating as Millennials become parents, thus the plant-based food category is poised for inevitable, long-term growth.

Bringing Up Plant-Based

Among many important findings, the report shows the rise of Millennial parents who incorporate plant-based foods at family meals, increasing early exposure for the world’s youngest generation — who are developing a lifestyle and palate for plant-based foods much earlier than previous generations. Not coincidentally, Millennial parents are also much more likely than older generations to teach their kids about environmental sustainability, specifically the connection between plate and planet.

Impossible Foods’ report also found that younger generations are more inclined to view climate change and biodiversity as priorities and are fighting to wake the world from its collective passivity and denial of climate change and biodiversity loss.

“Our latest findings correlate with our global mission to eliminate the need for animal products in our food system by 2035,” said Jessica Appelgren, Vice President of Communications at Impossible Foods. “With the help of Millennials and Gen Z consumers who are consuming plant-based meat more than any other generation, we see hope for a future planet where biodiversity can flourish and the Earth can begin to heal itself.”

The full report can be read in full here.

Veganism Impact

The Veganism Impact Report shows that 8,800 cancer cases are linked to processed or red meat consumption each year, suggesting that opting for a meat-free diet would significantly reduce the chances of developing stomach and bowel cancer.

There would also be a notable reduction in the amount of the world’s land surface occupied by livestock, with a billion fewer hectares used for agriculture if the global population went vegan.

Aiming to highlight the pros and cons of a vegan diet, the interactive report uses statistics on the UK, EU and world’s annual animal product consumption to reveal how our employment, trade, health, employment and economy would change if society switched to a plant-based diet, or if everybody consumed animal products.

For example, dairy products and birds’ eggs accounted for a huge £386 million of the UK’s exports in 2017, but if production rose to meet the increased consumption of a solely non-vegan population, these exports could rise to £390.5 million.

In 2018, the leather industry alone generated a turnover of €48 billion (£42 million). If 100% of the current EU vegan population began to consume animal products and purchased leather, the industry would generate a staggering €2,832,000,000 turnover per year – representing a 6% increase in the industry.

Employment would also increase by 6% as a result of increased demand for leather, providing 25,665 more jobs in the EU.

If 100 percent of the current EU vegan population consumed fish, the aquaculture trade would receive a boost of €1,787,700,000 and be able to employ 644 more fishermen per year.

UK statistics are based on 1.16 percent of the population being vegan and do not take into account the vegetarian or pescatarian population. EU statistics are based on 5.9% of the population being vegan and vegetarian.
For more details on the true impact veganism and non-veganism, click here.

Fourth of July Consumer Trends

Yext released new data on how consumer search behavior changes in the days leading up to the Fourth of July holiday.

The research reveals insights into the businesses that consumers request driving directions to during the week of Independence Day, including a general uptick in clicks for directions to ice cream shops that peaked at 93 percent above average on July 3 in 2017. During a time when brand reputations are at stake, businesses can capture consumers — sweet-tooth or not — during the summer holiday by ensuring that their online information, including locations and hours of operation, is accurate and up to date.

Yext analyzed clicks for driving directions by business category the week of July 4th,* and found:

Baseball, Hot Dogs, and … Sectionals?: July 1 is a popular day for appliances and furniture retailers, with 24 percent and 25 percent more directions requests than normal, respectively, in 2018. While toasters and couches may not fit the traditional mold of celebrating America's birthday, shoppers may be using the day to take advantage of holiday sales in these categories.

Celebration Prep Starts July 2: As consumers prepare their homes and gardens to host Fourth of July festivities or pick up any outdoor equipment for barbecues, clicks for driving directions to home improvement stores rise 10 percent on July 2 compared to the average.

Consumers Stock Up the Day Before: On July 3rd, grocery stores hit 24 percent above average as consumers look to stock up on food for parties and cookouts.

 The Freedom to Spend: With banks closed on Independence Day, driving directions requests to banks and ATMs dive to 59 percent below average. Instead, consumers pack their wallets on the days leading up to the holiday — with clicks peaking at 32 percent above average on July 3 — so they have cash to spend at the beach and beyond.

We All Scream for Ice Cream, All Week: Driving directions requests to ice cream shops went up 54 compared on July 4 compared to the average and remained high throughout the week in 2018. The previous year revealed a similar trend, but consumers got a head start on indulging in sweet summer treats with clicks spiking to 93 percent above average the day before the holiday.

Independence from Chores: On July 4, consumers are in holiday mode, and getting things done around the house is far from their minds. Cleaning services and supply stores experience a whopping 80 percent fewer directions requests than normal.

Heading Out of Town for the Holiday: The day of the week that July 4 falls on seems to impact hotel traffic trends. In 2018, when the holiday landed mid-week, requests for hotel directions were as low as 15 percent below average in the days before. On the other hand, when the holiday fell closer to the weekend in 2017, hotels saw a bump as high as 15 percent above average — likely because working people were able to extend their weekends and take a short vacation.

Banks bounce back on July 5: Following a dive on Independence Day, banking and financial services see 20 percent more clicks for directions than normal as consumers look to refill any holes the holiday burned in their wallets.

"The week of July 4th is a peak time for some of the businesses we normally associate with a summer holiday, like ice cream shops, supermarkets, and home improvement stores, but our data shows it's also an opportunity for unexpected businesses, like appliances and furniture retailers. Considerations such as which day of the week the holiday falls on and how close it is to a weekend also impact consumer search habits, especially in the hospitality sector," said Zahid Zakaria, Senior Director of Insights and Analytics at Yext. "Holidays are always critical times for businesses, because these are the times when consumers are out of their routines and are looking up businesses to visit. It's more important than ever for businesses of all kinds to deliver verified answers to consumer questions in search at these peak moments."

*Yext examined the volume of clicks for driving directions during 10 days consisting of the weekend before, the week of, and the weekend after July 4th in 2017 and 2018. All findings refer to the 2018 data, unless otherwise noted. This data, gathered from Yext's customer businesses, was then compared against averages by day from the three preceding weeks.

Best Places the Celebrate Fourth of July

Tripleseat released  these nine recommended venues found in America's oldest restaurants or historic buildings, as well as those that have amazing views of firework displays or have historically creative names throughout New York City, D.C., and Philadelphia.  

The East Coast houses some of the nation's most historic venues to wine and dine, especially in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia. Whether your Independence Day plans are to stay local with a delicious meal surrounded by friends and family, or head out for a drink with a perfect view of the fireworks, Tripleseat suggests the following restaurants, rooftops, and food halls to celebrate America's birthday.

New York City

1. Delmonico's Restaurant: Opened in 1837, this restaurant is one of the oldest in New York City, and prides itself on being "the first fine dining restaurant in the United States. Charles Ranhofer, who became Delmonico's chef in 1862, was the creator of dishes now seen on many menus across the country.

2. Harriet's Rooftop and Lounge: If you're in town for the fireworks, make a plan to head to Harriet's Rooftop and Lounge at the top of Hotel Brooklyn Bridge. You'll get a spectacular view of the display, in addition to the Manhattan skyline and the Statue of Liberty. 

3. P.J. Clarke's: This Midtown restaurant started as a saloon in 1884 and got its name from bartender Patrick "Paddy" J. Clarke, who came to New York from Ireland. It was a hotspot during the Prohibition era, serving bathtub gin and bootlegged Scotch. It was a favorite among Frank Sinatra, Buddy Holly, Nat King Cole, and the Kennedy family.

Washington, D.C. 

1. 1789 Restaurant & Bar: This restaurant is housed in a Federal period house in the Georgetown neighborhood, and is named for the year that its original site was purchased by Archbishop John Caroll, the founding father of Georgetown University. Admire the antique decor as you dine on American cuisine from a seasonal menu that uses fresh, regional ingredients.

2. Old Ebbitt Grill : The oldest saloon in D.C. opened in 1856 and boasts a long list of political patrons. Old Ebbitt Grill was once part of the Old Ebbitt Hotel, home to President William McKinley lived when he served in Congress. Its regulars also included presidents Ulysses S. Grant, Andrew Jackson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Warren Harding.

3. Sequoia: If you're looking for the best seat in town for D.C.'s fireworks display, grab a table at Sequoia, with its glass-enclosed dining room and terrace patio offers great views of Washington Harbor, the Potomac River, the Kennedy Center, and the Key Bridge.


1. The Bourse Marketplace: Originally built in 1891 as the first commodities exchange market in the United States, this space was restored and recently reopened as a food hall with more than 30 food and drink vendors. Grab something to eat and walk directly out to Independence Mall to take part in holiday festivities.

2. City Tap House Logan Square: Celebrate America by choosing from 37 draft beers that are made in the USA at City Tap House. Enjoy a few brews and shared plates, and then walk down Ben Franklin Parkway to get a great view of Philadelphia's fireworks display.

3. Independence Beer Garden: Nothing quite like a beer garden with "independence" in its name that is just steps from the Liberty Bell and Independence National Historical Park. Relax in its 20,000 foot space and check out backyard games, such as cornhole or bocce.

"Since America's birthday is the top beer-drinking holiday, fireworks and freedom aren't the only things being celebrated," said Jonathan Morse, CEO. "Whether planning on barbequing with family and friends in the nearest park, or heading to the nearest rooftop bar to watch Macy's 4th of July Fireworks, we've provided our fellow patriots with our recommended, historical spots to check out for their upcoming Independence Day plans."

If interested in additional venues to celebrate on July 4th,  click here.

Summer Shopping and Dining Habits

Lightspeed revealed several key discoveries regarding consumer shopping and dining habits for the summer season. One insight revealed that physical retail is still the most prevalent form for both Americans (36 percent) and Canadians (47 percent), even amidst the growing popularity of online shopping and food ordering. 

With July being Independent Retailer Month, Lightspeed developed the 2019 Summer Shopping Habits Survey and 2019 Summer Dining Habits Survey with key findings including:

  • Over half of North Americans spend up to $250 per summer shopping trip: 52 percent of Canadians and 53 percent of Americans drop between $50 to $250 per shopping excursion
  • Food quality is the most important factor to a positive dining experience: Nearly 60 percent of North Americans stated that food quality is their most important consideration for a positive dining experience, followed by customer service for Americans, and price for Canadians
  • North Americans are spending most of their summer money on food: Both Canadians (41 percent) and Americans (42 percent) spend the most money on food during the summer, followed by clothing and apparel, supplies for hobbies and home furnishings
  • Americans spend more in the winter, Canadians spend more in the summer: Over 36 percent of Canadians spend the most money on shopping and dining in the summer, whereas over 36 percent of Americans spend the most in the winter
  • The majority of North Americans anticipate spending hundreds of dollars per summer month on eating out: 28 percent of both Canadians and Americans believe they will spend between $100-$300 at foodservice establishments per month between June and August

“At Lightspeed, we not only provide independent retailers and restaurateurs the tools they need for success but also the insights to take them there," says Dax Dasilva, Founder and CEO of Lightspeed. “We launched this survey to reveal meaningful information about shopping and dining habits in summer 2019 to enable businesses to make better decisions this season catered specifically to their customers.”

Craft Beer Popularity

It’s no secret that craft beer’s popularity has grown in recent years. Breweries have been popping up in cities across the country as drinkers seek out a cold glass of IPA, stout, or pale ale. But where is the mecca of breweries? We analyzed data from more than 500 cities to find out which city has the most breweries per 50,000 people.  

Whether you’re a Millennial, Baby Boomer or a Gen Xer, craft beer fans alike might want to visit Portland, Maine. The city is just shy of 70,000 people, but it is home to the most craft breweries in America with 18 breweries per 50,000 people. Asheville, North Carolina and Bend, Oregon rank No. 2 and 3, respectively. Boulder, Colorado and Kalamazoo, Michigan round out the top 5 ranking at No. 4 and 5, respectively. 

It's also interesting to note that large cities like Chicago, New York and Los Angeles don’t appear on this list. In fact, the only cities with a population of 250,000 or more on the list include Denver, Madison, Portland and Cincinnati.

Most Popular Craft Breweries

With so many options, how do craft beer drinkers choose which brewery to visit? Sure, you could try to visit them all, but you might end up with a pretty big headache the next morning if you did. To make things a little easier, we determined the most popular brewery in each city based on Google search data. In order to find the most up-to-date list of breweries within every city, we used brewery data from the BreweryDB database.  

As craft beer continues to grow, it will be interesting to see how this list of cities changes in the coming years. Will Portland, Maine hold onto its thrown, or will another city claim the title of “craft beer capital of the U.S.?” 


Healthy at Lunch

More than half (56 percent) of employed Americans who typically eat lunch during work hours struggle to eat a healthy lunch at work, and more than three quarters (77 percent) say they’re more likely to make healthier decisions at other times of the day if they eat healthy at lunch, according to a new survey from the American Heart Association, the leading voluntary health organization devoted to a world of longer, healthier lives, and Aramark, the largest U.S. based food service company.

The survey was conducted online by The Harris Poll on behalf of the American Heart Association and Aramark as part of their joint initiative, Healthy for Life®20 By 20, among 907 employed U.S. adults aged 18 or older who say they typically eat lunch during work hours.

“Understanding what employees are eating for lunch on a typical workday and what factors influence their choices helps us develop strategies to improve dietary intake with multi-level approaches through food systems, communities and individuals,” said Anne Thorndike, MD, MPH, vice chair of the American Heart Association’s Nutrition Committee and associate professor at Harvard Medical School. “The finding that healthier food choices at work may impact food choices throughout the rest of the day presents a unique opportunity for the workplace to have a positive influence on not only the employee’s health but also the health of the employee’s family.”

The survey of employed U.S. adults who typically eat lunch during work hours found that:

More than 9 in 10 (91 percent) are interested in improving the healthfulness of their typical workday lunch with employees under 40 more likely to be extremely/very interested compared to employees aged 40+ (65 percent vs. 55 percent).

More than 4 in 5 (82 percent) agree that having healthy food options at work is important to them and more than 2 in 3 (68 percent) value help from their employer in becoming healthier.

About 4 in 5 (79 percent) whose workplace has on-site cafeteria, food service or vending machines get food there at least some of the time.

Nearly 9 in 10 (86 percent) prepare work lunches at home at least some of the time, with women more likely to do so than men (91 percent vs. 82 percent).

When eating an unhealthy lunch, employees under age 40 are more likely to be impacted at least a little bit by cost (91 percent vs. 79 percent) and choices of their peers or coworkers (75 percent vs. 50 percent) than employees aged 40+.

On a stressful day at work, about 1 in 3 (35 percent) say their lunch is less healthy than a typical day, with women more likely to say so than men (40 percent vs 32 percent).

Motivated by its mission to enrich and nourish lives and its Healthy for Life 20 By 20 collaboration with the American Heart Association to improve the health of all Americans, Aramark launched a major plant-forward initiative to boost nutrition across its menus in colleges and universities, hospital cafés and workplace locations. The initiative has resulted in a 15 percent average reduction in calories, saturated fat and sodium, and significant increases in fruits, vegetables and whole grains across those dining location menus.

“Aramark and the American Heart Association are proud of our shared commitment to help millions of people lead healthier lives,” says Dan Wainfan, vice president, Brand Health, Wellness and Nutrition at Aramark. “Through this survey, and as part of extensive consumer insights gained throughout our Healthy for Life 20 By 20 initiative, consumers are emphasizing that health and wellness is top of mind every day. While they don’t always make a healthy choice, they always want delicious, healthy choices available—at work and at home.”

While employees who typically eat lunch during work hours cite limited availability of healthy foods (43 percent) as having a great deal/quite a bit of impact on eating an unhealthy lunch, more of these employees cite convenience (60 percent) and taste preference (54 percent) as having a great deal/quite a bit of impact on choosing an unhealthy lunch.

“Improving the nutrition content and reducing calories of classic favorites and typically indulgent menu items helps. Having more plant-based options to choose from at home and on menus helps. But in the end, people still need to choose to eat healthier food. The good news is most people said they are interested in doing better,” said Thorndike.

To arm people with the skills and information they need to eat healthier at work and at home, Healthy for Life offers free, turn-key educational programming and support resources at

Why Hourly Workers Reject Jobs

New data released today from BlueCrew, ranks the top five reasons hourly job offers get rejected by job seekers. According to the data, pay is not the number one reason hourly workers accept or reject jobs. BlueCrew’s data shows that over a third of hourly jobs offered on its platform (38 percent) are rejected due to employer location and only 10 percent of jobs are rejected due to pay. BlueCrew analyzed more than 10,000 job offers that were not accepted on the company’s platform.

Here are the top five reasons jobs get rejected:

#1 Location

Despite popular belief that pay matters most, hourly workers actually lean toward accepting lower paying jobs if the commute is shorter or closer to public transportation. According to BlueCrew’s 2019 data, 38 percent of jobs are rejected due to employer location.

#2 Schedule

Schedule came in a close second with a quarter (26 percent) of workers rejecting an offer of work because of the hours. BlueCrew’s survey revealed that flexibility has become an important factor when deciding whether to accept or reject a job. Thanks to the rise of gig platforms and the growing ability to access hourly work on demand, hourly workers across traditional job categories (including manufacturing, hospitality, and retail) at established businesses, not just gig workers, are expecting to choose when and how much they work to accommodate their busy schedules.

#3 Job type 

Workers are quick to reject jobs that they might not like. In a record tight job market and flex-oriented economy, workers can afford to be selective and choose the job function they want as well as when and where they desire. Nearly one in four (24 percent) jobs were rejected due to job type.

#4 Pay rate

Only 10 percent of workers actually rejected jobs due to wage. BlueCrew’s data revealed that pay rate is actually much more impactful to retention than job acceptance. A small difference in pay can keep the best employees at the same company for substantially longer.

#5 The company counts … rarely

Only 2 percent of job seekers pointed to the company itself as a reason they rejected jobs.

“The access to flexibility with the gig model has shifted the paradigm for hourly workers and employers across all kinds of industries – including manufacturing, hospitality, and retail,” said Adam Roston, CEO of BlueCrew. “In this incredibly tight labor market, businesses have to compete for hourly workers who have more options for flexible work than ever before. Our data shows that when actually deciding whether or not to take a job, workers value location, control, and flexibility above all else, which we believe reflects a broader trend of work fitting around their schedule instead of their schedule fitting around work.”

“Wages will, of course, always matter, but we see this more so when it comes to retaining workers — not hiring them,” continued Roston. “For example, in the industrial sector where companies are struggling more than ever with hiring and retention, a worker can be easily lured by another employer with only moderately higher pay if they’re based in the same general vicinity. Many times, we’ve seen employees walk across the parking lot for a small raise.”

The BlueCrew data was collected between March 3, 2019 and April 3, 2019.