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A desserts and drinks love affair

Katie Brown SVP, Research, Insights and Consulting 08/12/2022

In our Top 10, consistent with previous years, America’s coffee house and dessert titans continue to feel the love.

The ice cream specialist is the most loved new entrant in our Top 100 list, debuting straight at #25.

Starbucks (#2), Krispy Kreme (#4), Dunkin’ Donuts (#7) and The Cheesecake Factory (#9) all keep their place as Top 10 Most Loved Eating Out brands. These chains have strong legacies and a vast scale of estate to support them – but also a long history of reliable service, attention to detail, and proposition flair.

With brand love though, there’s never room for complacency. Franchises can fall spectacularly by failing to nurture relationships with their customers.

Similarly, brands can rise dramatically – take Braum’s, for example. The ice cream specialist is the most loved new entrant in our Top 100 list, debuting straight at #25. Only operating in 5 southern states, it’s a well-kept secret and has been described as “the best American QSR chain you’ve never heard of.”

Braum’s also sells burgers – but as its logo implies, ice cream is the unique selling point and main marketing focus. The milk comes from cows at the brand’s own farm in Oklahoma – and many loyal customers claim it tastes fresher and creamier as a result.

Why is Braum’s, founded in 1968, enjoying so much affection now? The low prices of its products can only help, with the rising cost of living ongoing. The retro color scheme is not only nostalgic, but provides comfort – which, as we’ve explored in our other articles, is just what we need right now after some tough years.

Out of 2021’s Top 100 brands, one of the highest risers is Smoothie King (#55) – up 10 places. The juice bar franchise has been growing and plans to open over 100 new stores in the next year, giving more Americans the chance to go. One of its main marketing campaign slogans is “dessert doesn’t have to be unhealthy” which stands out in a category not always known for keeping the calorie count down.

So, what can we learn from Braum’s and Smoothie King climbing up our Top 100 list over the past 12 months?

Such rises suggest that there’s healthy competition in their categories. Moreover, as Smoothie King has shown, there’s also space for brands wanting to appeal to more health-conscious consumers. Despite the dominant position of several world-famous drinks and dessert chains in the Top 10, there’s plenty of brand love to go around.

Download the report here to find out the America’s Top 100 Most Loved Eating Out Brands, as well as insights on the future of the sector and how brands can stay relevant in the coming years.

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