The top reason diners visit a restaurant is to eat a simple, familiar meal; however, getting a meal that satisfies a craving is a close second, according to Technomic data. Last year’s list of most craveable restaurant chains proves that nothing is stagnant—one chain from last year’s list was knocked out of today’s top 10 entirely, and none of the others fell in the same sequence. Click through to uncover the current top 10 chains out of the leading brands surveyed for Technomic's Consumer Brand Metrics, powered by Ignite. The chains are ranked from 10th to first, in order of the percentage of recent diners who note cravings as the primary reason for visiting that concept.
10. Ben & Jerry’s
The first of two ice cream concepts on the list, Ben & Jerry’s rounds out the top 10, with three-fifths of consumers saying they visit Ben & Jerry’s primarily to satisfy a craving. Ice cream’s unsurprisingly the most mentioned craveable item at the chain, with 62.9% of consumers saying they can only get this type of craveworthy ice cream at Ben & Jerry's. Some of the QSR's most popular flavors, according to the chain, are Half Baked and Cherry Garcia.
9. Joe’s Crab Shack
Joe’s Crab Shack is the sole casual-dining chain on the list, with three in five consumers saying they visit the seafood spot to fulfill cravings. Seafood’s the most mentioned craveable item at Joe’s, with the chain’s eponymous crab as the top callout. The fact that the chain serves much of its food out of metal crab buckets with bibs is a key factor in its craveability for many respondents.
Three-fifths of consumers say they seek out Schlotzsky’s to satiate cravings. Not only are the fast-casual chain’s sandwiches listed as a craveable item diners can only get at this brand, but its breads are as well. The Original Sandwich was mentioned by consumers as one of the most craveable sandwiches.
7. Auntie Anne’s
More than three in five consumers say they visit Auntie Anne’s when they have a craving. The QSR snack shop, known for its soft pretzels, uses aromatic and visual cues to enhance cravings in the restaurant. Because shops are small, a pretzel aroma wafts through the restaurant and into adjacent areas, especially at malls, to encourage walk-in traffic. Plus, the chain displays not only its products in customers' view but also an employee who regularly rolls out the pretzel dough to cook in-house.
6. Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers
Over three-fifths of consumers say they visit Raising Cane’s to satisfy a craving. When asked what craveable items they can only get at the fast-casual chicken spot, sauces and condiments rank first, with about half of consumers saying they can only get those there. The proprietary Cane’s sauce is described by the chain as “tangy with a little bit of spice and full of flavor.” Chicken is a close second, with 44.6% of consumers saying the chain’s chicken is a craveable item they can only get at Raising Cane’s.
5. White Castle
White Castle satiates cravings for over three out of five consumers. The chain uses cravings to amp up its marketing promos: Its menu of Big Craves features six items, including its popular Crave Case; its slogan is “Our Menu. Your Crave”; and its loyalty program is dubbed Craver Nation. White Castle is the sole burger joint on the top 10 list, knocking off In-N-Out Burger, which came in fifth on last year’s list.
Almost two-thirds of consumers say they seek out Chick-fil-A to sate a craving. Notably, no single item sticks out among the craveable items consumers say they can only get at the QSR. Mentioned by consumers are chicken, fries, sandwiches and breakfast starches.
3. Krispy Kreme
Last year’s No. 1, Krispy Kreme now ranks third among the most craveable brands. Just over 81% of consumers say the QSR’s doughnuts are a craveable item they can only get at this brand. The chain is known for its large display cases of doughnuts, which attract the 31% of consumers who say the appearance of items typically triggers their food cravings.
2. Cold Stone Creamery
More than two-thirds of consumers visit Cold Stone to satisfy a craving. The chain takes advantage of food photography in its restaurants—both on menu boards and walls—to induce cravings, which appeals to the 35% of consumers who say pictures of items activate their cravings. But the chain also uses the appearance technique to induce cravings, mixing in each of the ingredients atop a frozen granite slab in view of the customer.
Last year’s No. 2, Cinnabon officially dethroned Krispy Kreme as the No. 1 brand that satisfies cravings. Recent Cinnabon guests describe their reasons for excellent visit satisfaction as follows: “Everything always tastes fresh and melts in your mouth”; “The smell brings you in and the cinnamon rolls are delicious”; “All of the times we’ve been there the customer service is over the top and the menu and food given to us has been delicious”; and “Very clean, friendly atmosphere.”