Both large and small restaurant chains managed to produce major increases in their NRN Social 200 index scores from week to week in September, but size seemed to matter when it came to social-marketing strategies tied to products and menu items.

For the most part, the brands to bring about the largest increases in their Social 200 scores by promoting their menus were among the industry’s largest chains by domestic sales and system size. At the same time, while several smaller or emerging brands drove social-media engagement in line with their usual numbers on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube with their products and menu items, they made an even bigger impact with other strategies.

For example, September offered some brands the opportunity to attach their social marketing to playoff runs made by local sports teams. Many other restaurants participated in the month’s major philanthropic cause, Share Our Strength’s Dine Out for No Kid Hungry, and were rewarded with an outsize number of likes, shares and retweets from appreciative guests.

Menus move mega-chains’ numbers

In September, Red Robin Gourmet Burgers scored the largest one-week increase in its Social 200 score, rising 68 percent to 36.47 during the first week of the month. With more than 450 locations, Red Robin devotes its resources to a broad social-media strategy that promotes everything from menu items and brand slogans to philanthropic causes and movie tie-ins, such as May’s promotion of “The Wolverine.” However, the brand’s menu items consistently win the most likes, comments and shares on its Facebook page.

Red Robin

During the first week of September, Red Robin increased its Facebook posting around food and beverage, getting above average likes and shares for posts about the Chili Chili Cheeseburger, the Oktoberfest Bürger and the Blue Moon Beer Shake. Red Robin tweeted about those items simultaneously, branded with a “#MillionReasons” hash tag, which also encouraged a fair number of replies from followers eager to share how much they liked each item.

Chick-fil-A and Red Lobster also had double-digit gains in their already formidable index scores during the third week of September, and while both chains post and tweet all sorts of content, they had the greatest impact when talking about food.

Chick-fil-A executed its “Breakfast on Us” giveaway Sept. 9-14 and kept its social chatter going around its breakfast program with matching tweets and Facebook posts carrying the “#ChickenforBreakfast” hash tag, including a Sept. 20 picture of a breakfast sandwich on Facebook that garnered more than 15,700 likes, more than 600 comments and more than 400 shares. During that third week, Chick-fil-A’s index score climbed 19.9 percent to 46.02.

Red Lobster grew its Social 200 score 16.8 percent to 50.57 that same week, driven by food shots for its “Endless Shrimp” promotion. Red Lobster scored three Facebook pictures that earned more than 20,000 likes each, including a photo of its Shrimp Linguini Alfredo that garnered more than 113,750 likes, more than 5,100 shares and more than 1,900 comments. Pictures of the Lobster and Shrimp Quesadilla and the Lobster Grilled Cheese also received about 22,000 likes each.