The best (but still not great) chain blogs

Maybe the industry is leery after seeing so many “trends” fizzle into fads (low-carb menu, anyone?). Or it could just be a bandwidth issue. Whatever the reason, restaurant chains clearly lag other businesses in the use of blogs as a public megaphone.

In a visit to the websites of more than 100 companies, we didn’t find one blog that was exclusively the turf of the CEO, for instance. What we did find were five chain blogs that should be studied by restaurant brands that intend to blog:

Smashburger’s Burger Buzz
+Compelling tone, Interesting
- Easy to find, Lot of posts
It’s ironic that a blog of this caliber isn’t even labeled as one. Listed only as Burger Buzz in the About section of Smashburger’s website, the chatty feature could nonetheless serve as a model for growth chains looking to blog. It blends tidbits of insider-y news with some transparent but not over-the-top cheerleading. The rah-rah stuff was more heavy-handed when aimed at potential franchisees.

Everything is told in a conversational voice, though the language isn’t as edgy as fans might expect from the proudly noncomformist brand.

The Buzz’s biggest problem was its leanness. Only four posts for December, and the most recent one before that was dated September 29. None for January. Couldn’t help feeling a little disappointed.

Pizza Fusion blog
+Compelling tone, Interesting
- Easy to find, Lot of posts
What appear to be several blogs with multiple postings, are actually several pages that draw from one database. It’s an innovative way to amplify a relatively small amount of content. The site also uses graphics and video well and gives a personal take on the chain, often from CEO Vaughan Lazar.

Shortcomings? The amount of content that’s posted, even with each entry getting multiple uses.

Dairy Queen’s Welcome to the Sweet Life
+ Easy to find, Lot of posts
~ Compelling tone, Interesting
An informal though carefully stewarded place where employees and the chain’s leadership talk about the brand.
More than most of the blogs we spotted, it fosters interaction with readers. The disappointment with Sweet Life is how vanilla much of the content can be. A satisfying blog should have some sass and attitude. A nun would read Sweet Life and mutter, “Geez, loosen up.”

Ocean Prime’s Table Talk
+ Easy to find, Lot of posts
~ Compelling tone, Interesting
The polished casual brand offers customers the chance to get inside the heads of three key team members: executive corporate chef Brian Hinshaw, who provides cooking tips; director of beverage Ryan Valentine, who offers wine suggestions and cocktail recipes; and president Cameron Mitchell, who makes small talk like he’s at the tableside.

Hopefully, in time, the three posters will loosen up in their entries. There was a stiffness to the prose that didn’t always mesh with the unstuffy nature of the topics, like what to do with turkey leftovers.

Jason’s Deli’s RealGoodBlog
+ Easy to find, Compelling tone
~ Interesting
- Lot of posts
The posts here provide a sense of the chain (its history was retold in a 2011 post), its values and what its message is (during last year’s cantaloupe contamination, an entry assured patrons that Jason’s melons were safe). Everything is told in a colloquial voice that fits the brand.

But the serving: skimpy. The blog had only three posts in all of 2011. Like getting an order of two fries.

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