Consumer Trends

Yelp users’ favorite casual chains

A diner is hunting for a casual-dining option and turns to the popular Yelp online guide for help. What entries are most likely to be checked out?

Hint: Listings for Applebee’s, Chili’s and other big brands aren’t likely to be the first stop.

A new analysis shows Yelp users are more prone to check out listings for local branches of small polished operations. The most likely entries to be visited, in order of page views per location, are Cooper’s Hawk; Houston’s or a sister brand run by Hillstone Restaurant Group; and Kona Grill.

A unit of Cooper’s Hawk averages 2,942 page views per month, or more than four times as many as the largest single-brand operation on the top 10 list, The Cheesecake Factory (at No. 8.)

Top 10 casual operations by average per-location Yelp page visits

  1. Cooper’s Hawk, 2,942
  2. Hillstone Restaurants (Houston’s, Hillstone), 1,000
  3. Kona Grill, 975
  4. Front Burner (Whiskey Cake, Mexican Sugar), 975
  5. BJ’s Restaurants, 808
  6. Firebirds Wood Fired Grill, 767
  7. Landry’s, 725
  8. The Cheesecake Factory, 717
  9. Pappas Restaurants, 692
  10. J. Alexander’s, 692


National behemoths score more attention when Yelp users resort to a search rather than browsing by location to find a restaurant. The most likely casual subjects of a search are The Cheesecake Factory (134,333 searches on average per month), Buffalo Wild Wings (128,833) and Olive Garden (102,333).

Top 10 most searched casual operations on Yelp

  1. The Cheesecake Factory
  2. Buffalo Wild Wings
  3. Olive Garden
  4. Yard House
  5. Outback Steakhouse
  6. Applebee’s
  7. Red Lobster
  8. Benihana
  9. Red Robin
  10. P.F. Chang’s


    In trying to determine what propels a casual brand’s popularity, Yelp found via the study that convenience and service tend to be key considerations. In both positive and negative reviews posted by users, those factors tend to be mentioned, it pointed out in the analysis. 

    The overall experience also figured into the calibration. Chains that drew the heaviest viewership tended to have an abundance of comments about such service features as table wait times, ease of parking and the host or hostess.

    The positive reviews of casual places scoring high on the Yelp rankings tended to mention restaurant employees by name, and 32 of the 100 keywords used most often in the raves were references to service quality.

    “Diners remember great service and will highlight it in reviews, which further reinforces the importance of rewarding employees who go above and beyond to deliver a great experience,” the report said.

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