WOM Recommendation Index Ranks Top Restaurant Chains

December 10, 2009

This article is included in these additional categories:

Brand Metrics | Food & Restaurants | Social Media

California Pizza Kitchen, Texas Roadhouse and Outback Steakhouse are the most recommended casual dining restaurants (CDRs) by US consumers, according to the newly created Recommendation Index from M/A/R/C Research and Zocalo Group.


The index measures both online and offline recommendations and takes into account how often people recommend individual brands as well as how each brand compares with an overall category. In addition to providing an overall ranking of both positively and negatively recommended brands, it also creates a score that marketers can use to compare against other brands in the same category.

Though the index will be applied to a variety of industries in the future, its creators chose to focus the inaugural report on the CDR category.

Casual Dining Restaurants

In terms of CDRs, the Recommendation Index represents the proportion of positive to negative recommendations and is calculated based on the brands most often talked about positively and negatively. It is a single score that provides a brand with a method for benchmarking how it is being recommended in relation to specific competitors and within the overall industry.

The index was used to identify the top words or characteristics that consumers use when making a positive or negative recommendation for a CDR. Triggers such as “fast,” “variety,” and “friendly” are among top indicators.

The average Recommendation Index for CDRs of 3.01 is the average index value of the most recommended brands in the category. The average provides brands with a means for gauging the level of recommendation against the overall industry.

“The recommendation of a friend, family member or expert is the number-one reason consumers buy in almost every category,” said Paul Rand, president and CEO of Zocalo Group. “Marketers who understand where and how their category is talked about and recommended – and how their brand stacks up – gain clear competitive advantage.”

“The Recommendation Index looks not just at how consumers talk, but at their actions,” noted Merrill Dubrow, president and CEO of M/A/R/C Research. “We wanted to move from the hypothetical to the actual. The potential implications for brands are significant.”

The index will be released quarterly and focus on different industries and brands with the intent to also show the change in recommendation by industry year over year.

About the index: The Recommendation Index was compiled through both offline and online analysis of conversations about casual dining restaurants. A representative group of 1,020 CDR patrons were asked about brands they most often recommended positively and negatively and the attributes they use to make these/their recommendations. The most frequently recommended brands identified in the survey research were then analyzed in online conversations occurring through blogs, forums, Twitter and other discussion venues. Online analysis focused on the naturally occurring organic conversations about those brands and the words consumers use in talking about the most recommended restaurants.

The Casual Dining Restaurant (CDR) segment includes restaurants that serve moderately priced food in a casual atmosphere. Except for buffet-style restaurants, CDRs typically provide table service and comprise a market segment between fast food and fine dining establishments.


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