Looking back at data from the Restaurant Social Media Index (RSMI) over the past year, it has become obvious that Taco Bell and Chipotle are top runners on social. The “Live Mas” brand claimed No. 1 status on our RSMI Overall Top 250 for both Q1 and Q2 of 2013, while Chipotle stole the top spot in Q3 and Q4. However, Q1 2014 data shows that both brands have taken a tumble, putting them in the bottom-half of the Top 10.

Stealing the limelight, with a Social Score of 403.17 out of 500 total points, is Subway, which we saw climb a bit last quarter to No. 4. There have been quite a few brand shifts for Q1 2014 — check out the full Top 10 list below.

What is the RSMI & How Does it Work?

The RSMI, developed by digital agency DigitalCoCo, is the industry’s most comprehensive Index with domain expertise, tracking millions of U.S. (read more…)

The overarching theme at the National Retail Federation’s BIG Show this year was clear: Know your customer. This theme resonated throughout keynote and breakout sessions and on both levels of the EXPO Hall floor. Whether you’re a food retailer or a restaurant operator, there was something for everyone on how to get to know and engage customers using multiple channels. Here is a look at some of the retail and restaurant technology trends seen on the show floor that help connect businesses with their customers both within their establishments as well as online:

1. Online brand monitoring

Many companies showing in the EXPO Hall were there to show brands how they can help them make sense of the ever-growing social diner. New Brand Analytics is a company that does just that by harvesting social media mentions of specific brands and aggregating them into a dashboard for restaurants and other businesses.

The company takes unstructured social feedback and organizes it by more than 70 different metrics such as service, attentiveness, menu, food quality and prices, according to NBA Sales Director Adam Hack. (read more…)

Like most grocery stores, Sprouts Farmers Market offers discounts and promotions to its customers through several channels including e-mails and online coupons. But thanks to new data Sprouts is acquiring through a partnership with analytics provider Manthan Systems, the grocer is launching a new loyalty program based on customer analytics, which provides the company with specific data about its shoppers and their behaviors, Sprouts Chief Information and Marketing Officer Steve Black said during a Big !deas session at NRF‘s BIG Show in New York City on Monday. The new program will transition from one that is based on data about items to one that integrates both customer analytics and item data, giving Sprouts a better picture of who its best customers are and how to best engage with those who fall into its target market, he said.

“Every single experience of every single customer is important every single day,” which is why Sprouts hopes to improve the customer experience through the new program, Black said. (read more…)

Fast casual isn’t just the fastest-growing segment of the restaurant industry, it’s also out in front when it comes to adopting mobile technology for ordering and payments, tools that fast-food chains and casual concepts are only now beginning to seriously explore.

“Drive-thrus are starting to think about using self-serve and digital ordering — enormous restaurant groups with thousands of locations are saying, ‘this is really important to me,’” says Noah Glass, CEO of mobile ordering provider OLO.

On the casual side, chains including Applebee’s and Chili’s are experimenting with table-top tablets designed to speed service, boost average checks and give guests a gadget for playing games and paying the tab.

OLO, which launched in 2005 to provide restaurant chains with online and mobile ordering capabilities, counts fast-growing chains including Five Guys Burgers & Fries and MOOYAH among its clients. Mobile has been outpacing online as more consumers carry smartphones and find new ways to use the gadgets to connect with the world and simplify their lives, Glass says, a trend that makes him wonder whether restaurant patrons will turn from their personal devices to public computers when they sit down at a restaurant table. (read more…)

The adage “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is” is a key lesson journalists learn early on, and the best ones don’t ever forget it. The more you want that dramatic-but-unverified story to be true, the more you need to verify it. Good journalists go above and beyond to get the story right the first time and to avoid becoming the victim of a hoax. They’re good rules. And they’re rules that don’t apply on social media, where everybody has a place to tell their own side of the story — even when they might be making it up.

A New Jersey waitress made news when she posted a receipt purporting to show that one of her customers left a note instead of a tip, saying he wouldn’t support her lifestyle. The woman, who is a lesbian and a military veteran, won national support. People who were outraged on her behalf sent her cash along with an outpouring of kind words. (read more…)