The secrets to social media success were never really all that hard to find. The best restaurateurs have been using platforms like Facebook, Twitter, FourSquare, Instagram and more for years to engage their audience, market their restaurant and promote events.

But online reputation management firm newBrandAnalytics has found another application for social media, and is now making a business of it. The software-as-a-service company isn’t alone in offering an assortment of products to monitor, manage and improve a brand’s online reputation. What can be really worthwhile to clients, and the industry as a whole, is the social media intelligence the company accumulates by tracking the online chatter for so many restaurant chains and independents.

To understand industry-wide menu trends from some of the most inventive and celebrated chefs across the country, newBrandAnalytics created a blind index of 100 buzz-worthy restaurants—called the nBA Hot 100. It studied all the reviews from those places last year that indicated customers “would return,” “can’t wait to come back,” or some form of those words and sentiments. From almost 150,000 online mentions, at places like Twitter, OpenTable, Yelp, Facebook, TripAdvisor, Zagat, Urban Spoon and more, came really interesting insight into what’s trending and driving customers to return to those hot restaurants.



It’s probably no surprise to learn that scallops and short ribs are the top trending foods, but beets at No. 8? Sea urchin at No. 10? Cucumber cocktails and green tea mojitos top the beverage trends list, while red velvet cake, chocolate soufflé and donuts move the dessert needle the most.

Some of newBrandAnalytics’ clients are also using social media for menu research and quality control. Ruby Tuesday saved its chain of nearly 800 restaurants from a massive mistake by hearing “overwhelmingly negative” feedback and then reversing course when the brand tested dropping the free (and universally loved) cheddar biscuits at select locations, says nBA c.e.o. Kristin Muhlner.

The Garces Restaurant Group, with 15 award-winning restaurants from Iron Chef Jose Garces, used social media feedback to discover a drink at one of the locations was being made incorrectly, explained Susan Ganeshan, nBA’s chief marketing officer. A customer commented on loving the red sangria at the Latin-themed Amada in Atlantic City, NJ, but not at the nearby Tinto in Philadelphia. A quick check revealed the drink was being made incorrectly at the latter, and the mistake was quickly corrected.

“Social media is a way to get a lens not only into your shop, but also into your competitors’ as well,” Muhlner says.

It can complement, or even replace, traditional comment cards or guest-satisfaction surveys. And you can monitor not only the feedback to your restaurant, but also the ones down the street.

It may not be easy, or as detailed and exhaustive as what companies like nBA provide, but there’s no reason why an individual restaurant can’t be doing something similar on a smaller scale. Set up a Google Alert to find any mentions of your restaurant and search sites like Twitter, Facebook and Yelp daily or weekly. Keep an eye on what your customers are saying about you, and what they want to see on your menu. If there aren’t enough hours in the day, there are companies who can do it all for you.