As consumers embrace digital, many restaurant brands have yet to capitalize on the opportunities technology offers to revive the lagging industry. Barely half of brands in L2’s Digital IQ Index: Restaurants let customers order for delivery or pickup on their sites, less than a third offer coupons that can be used in digital checkout, and a mere 5% integrate expedited digital payment options like PayPal.
The eateries below are exceptions to the rule. By taking advantage of mobile payment and loyalty programs and paying attention to social media, they’re establishing themselves as pioneers — boosting their chances of continued success as foot traffic continues to decline.
Digital IQ: 149
It’s not a restaurant, per se, but traditional eateries can learn a lot from Starbucks. The brand’s best-in-class mobile app includes loyalty integration and order-for-pickup functionality, as well as the voice-activated Barista Bot, and its social presence dominates the Index. On Instagram, Starbucks racked up 80 million interactions during the study period, accounting for a third of interactions earned by all brands across the major platforms.
2. Pizza Hut
Digital IQ: 143
Along with Domino’s and Papa John’s, Pizza Hut is pushing back on aggressive delivery services, purchasing ads against terms associated with high consumer purchase intent including “pizza deals” and “order pizza.” It’s also a major investor in display advertising, placing fourth in the Index in terms of impressions served on desktop.
3. Panera Bread
Digital IQ: 142
Panera earns its Genius ranking by following email best practices, extensively segmenting its large list and personalizing messages by including customer names in subject lines. It also has social savvy: thanks to significant spend, the brand’s “So Much More Than Green” campaign garnered more than six million views on YouTube.
Digital IQ: 141
The pizza chain sees the highest site traffic in the Index, scoring more than eight million monthly desktop visits and 17 million monthly mobile visits. As that suggests, Domino’s caters to a predominantly smartphone-using audience, and has invested accordingly, letting customers order on Amazon’s Alexa as well as on its own mobile site and app.
Digital IQ: 137
Continuing the theme, Chili’s mobile app allows customers to place orders, join the line to be seated, check wait times, and earn Plenti rewards points. The brand’s ad buying strategy is also notable: Chili’s purchases ads against terms like “carrabbas catering,” forcing Carrabba’s to invest in AdWords in order to compete.
5. Olive Garden
Digital IQ: 137
A leader in catering, Olive Garden offers intuitive navigation on its site to help clients place large event orders for delivery or pickup. The brand also pays to keep its Yelp pages ad-free, preventing encroachment by competitors.
7. Papa John’s
Digital IQ: 136
Like competitors, Papa John’s recognizes that customers are generally on mobile devices and has partnered with Venmo to offer easy bill-splitting on digital orders. The pizza brand also serves the most programmatic desktop display impressions among Index brands.
Digital IQ: 131
Denny’s has established itself as a leader on Twitter, frequently tweeting humorous non-sequiturs and funny memes with zoom-ins. These helped the brand earn the third-highest engagement in the Index, as well as media attention. Denny’s tweets have been featured in multiple publications, including Business Insider, People, and Mashable.
Digital IQ: 130
Chick-fil-A exemplifies how a brand serving comfort food can still leverage health-oriented food content. The fried chicken brand’s site includes visual ingredient breakdowns that highlight simplicity and freshness, a smart way to address consumer concerns about processed food served in quick serve chains. The fast food brand also published the top video on YouTube during the study period, earning 26 million views.
10. Dunkin’ Donuts
Digital IQ: 129
Dunkin’ Donuts has focused on building loyalty, using its DD Perks rewards program and card to incentivize purchases. The brand also scores the second-highest engagement rate per post on Instagram with a strategy that incorporates user-generated content.