Consumer Trends

Full-service restaurants are some of the most popular brands on Yelp

First Watch and Texas Roadhouse led a strong showing for sit-down chains on a newly published ranking.
First Watch
First Watch is consumers' fourth most-loved brand, according to Yelp. / Photo courtesy of First Watch

A new list of Americans’ most-loved food and retail brands is dominated by full-service restaurants.

Sit-down chains make up 15 of the 50 spots on the ranking published Thursday by Yelp, including eight of the top 25. Breakfast-and-lunch specialist First Watch came in highest at No. 4, followed closely by Texas Roadhouse (6) The Cheesecake Factory (7) and Bonefish Grill (8). 

The ranking, which is based on Yelp ratings and repeat page views, includes retail and food brands as well as restaurants. Grocery chain Trader Joe’s finished No. 1, followed by bakery chain Nothing Bundt Cakes and beverage concept Kung Fu Tea.

But full-service restaurants had an especially strong showing, with more entries near the top than any other segment. Also cracking the top half of the ranking were Darden-owned LongHorn Steakhouse (No. 12) and Olive Garden (15) as well as Carrabba’s Italian Grill (17) and P.F. Chang’s (24). 

They finished higher than perennial limited-service favorites like Raising Cane’s (25), Culver’s (30) and Starbucks (49). Chick-fil-A, which frequently dominates consumer rankings, didn’t make the list. 

Click here to see the whole thing.

Yelp highlighted a couple of things the 50 beloved brands have in common. One is a sense of community.

“Trader Joe’s and First Watch, for example, make their customers feel like they’re in a local grocery store or diner,” said Yelp’s Director of Enterprise Solutions Kadecia Ber in a statement. “The employees know the locals and often go out of their way to help customers—this is what consumers value and reward.”

They also offer good value, the company said. First Watch held off on raising prices until early last year, while Darden has made a point of keeping prices below inflation to appeal to consumers on a budget. 

The results show the resilience of full-service restaurants, which were the hardest hit by pandemic restrictions in 2020 but enjoyed a strong rebound the following year as customers were eager to dine out again. Full service had another solid year in 2022, when total sales rose by an average of 12%, according to Technomic data from the top 500 largest chains.

Smaller beverage and snack concepts also made a mark on Yelp’s list. In addition to Nothing Bundt Cakes and Kung Fu Tea, Menchies Frozen Yogurt (No. 11), Scooter’s Coffee (13), Insomnia Cookies (20) and Smoothie King (43) made the cut.

The top-ranked limited-service chain with a full menu was Shake Shack at No. 16.

To be eligible for the list, brands had to have more than 200 locations in 25 or more states, more than 500 reviews, and at least one review for every two locations. 

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