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Eating out brand love in the UK and US: 5 differences

BrandVue’s Most Loved Eating Out Brands 2022

Will Blackett EVP, Consumer 16/11/2022

BrandVue’s Most Loved Eating Out Brands 2022

We recently published BrandVue’s Most Loved Eating Out Brands 2022 in both the UK and US, to showcase the link between Brand Love and commercial performance in the dining sector.

Our reports reveal the public’s rankings for quick service/fast casual brands, pubs and bars, restaurants, coffee shops and much more.

With rumors circulating this year that Starbucks is considering selling its UK business, it serves as a warning for brands to re-evaluate consumer convenience given the rise of hybrid working.

Taking a closer look at the findings, Will Blackett discusses some of the interesting differences between the UK and US rankings:

#1: McDonald’s: are we lovin’ it more in the UK?

McDonald’s is the UK’s #1 Most Loved Eating Out Brand, yet a slightly lower #5 in its home market. However, its Brand Love score reaches a healthy 25% in both countries, suggesting that the fast-food chain faces much more competition in the US.

Perhaps McDonald’s sets the standard in the UK because it adapts to evolving tastes; as part of its Plan for Change sustainability campaign, McDonald’s aims to be a market leader in vegan plant-based food by 2025.

The campaign seems to be a strong bet, considering our Grocery Eye tracker shows 28% of UK consumers are trying to eat more plant-based food this year

Many customers will visit McDonald’s to enjoy a beef burger, however the fast-food giant has more recently penetrated the vegan market. Its partnership with Beyond Meat and launch of the McPlant burger has led to a 4% uplift in UK Brand Love, however a similar trial in the US was shelved earlier this year due to low customer demand.

Meanwhile, McDonald’s faces strong American competition to be a market leader in chicken sandwiches.

#2: Chicken: fried or grilled?

Chick-fil-A is the #1 Most Loved Eating Out Brand in the US, at a time when American per capita chicken consumption is growing rapidly.

Another chicken specialist, Raising Cane’s, also features in the US Top 10. Neither of these brands have a UK presence though, where the leader of Brand Love for chicken is Nando’s, at an impressive #3.

Interestingly in the UK, Nando’s has risen a couple of places year-on-year in our table, usurping KFC, which now sits at #5. The UK has a soft spot for the South African brand, explaining why a third of all Nando’s branches worldwide are in Britain.

Perhaps Nando’s and KFC trading places is a sign that the UK also has a hankering for grilled chicken over fried. This may mean that Britain won’t witness the same intense chicken sandwich rivalry taking place across the pond.

Or perhaps it’s just beginning, given that US fried chicken brand Popeyes is one of the highest ranked debutants in our UK Top 100 table, coming straight in at #24.

#3: Coffee shops: keeping it local

Starbucks is #2 for Brand Love in the US, but sits outside the Top 10 in the UK, falling three places year-on-year to 13th.

Instead, Greggs occupies 2nd place in the UK, while Costa takes 4th spot. When it comes to coffee and snacks, it looks like consumers love to buy from local market brands.

With rumours circulating this year that Starbucks is considering selling its UK business, it serves as a warning for brands to re-evaluate consumer convenience given the rise of hybrid working.

The US coffeehouse chain, with over a thousand UK branches, has claimed its footfall at city sites had a slow post-pandemic recovery compared with retail parks and suburban sites.

If the new era of increased hybrid working is set to continue, grab-and-go chains may need a less city-centric approach to keep up with the times.

#4: Sweet or savoury?

Doughnut specialist Krispy Kreme is #3 in the US but doesn’t feature in the UK Top 100 at all despite a strong market presence.

At #2 in the UK, British bakery Greggs occupies a similarly high spot. Perhaps Brits narrowly favour something savoury with their coffee, like the chain’s famous sausage rolls, rather than something sweet.

But that’s not to say the UK’s sweet tooth isn’t growing. Kaspa’s Desserts is the highest placed new entry in our Top 100, debuting at an impressive #6, while Creams Cafe also features in the Top 10.

Meanwhile, three sweet brands occupy the US Top 10 – Krispy Kreme, Dunkin’ Donuts (#7) and The Cheesecake Factory (#10).

#5: Shaking up the establishment

There are 14 mutual brands in the UK and US lists, up from 12 in pre-pandemic 2019.

All 14 brands are American, evidence of Brits’ ever-growing fondness for American eating out experiences. Some relatively new UK market entrants, both in 2013, are high up the list – Five Guys (#11) and Shake Shack (#22).

Could this be a sign of the rewards up for grabs by serving the UK? It’s not a closed shop that’s for sure, it’s clear that Brits are quick to fall in love with new brands that shake things up.

Learn more about how BrandVue can help your brand here – or download the UK report and US report for more insights about the eating out sector and to discover the full Top 100 lists.

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