Food and Beverage Social Media Leaders

The Apron team reviews several published social media rankings on a regular basis, and below is a list of six food and beverage social media leaders to benchmark:

Taco Bell – Taco Bell holds the spot as the Facebook champion among the leading QSRs (Quick Service Restaurants). One index, ShareIQ, indicated (in the first four months of this year) 500,000 engagements of the 1.1 million notched by the top seven brands on this platform. They use Facebook to communicate their positioning as a lifestyle brand targeting millennial’s. Taco Bell won the 2017 “Mobile Marketer of the Year” award and an example post highlighted National Taco Day (Oct. 4) using an animated video.

McDonald’s – Based on Instagram and Twitter photos, McDonald’s ranked number one (source: Statista) as the most visible brand (a monthly average of 890,000 photos) outpacing the second and third non-food brands Nike and Adidas, each by nearly 100,000. McDonald’s also uses YouTube to communicate promotions, as well as corporate policy (e.g., sustainable packaging by 2025) delivered by their CEO Steven Easterbrook.

Wendy’s – Social media metrics and receiving top rankings are significant, but nothing is more important than improved profitability performance, which Wendy’s exhibited in 2017. The fast food chain attributes a large part of their increased sales and corresponding profits to stepping up their social media movement via Twitter exchanging witty banter with their followers (2.81M). An example engagement that went viral was follower Carter Wilkerson asking how many retweets would he need for a year of free chicken nuggets to which Wendy’s responded: 18 million. Note: #NuggsForCarter became the most retweeted Tweet of all time, but Carter fell short. Financials by the numbers: Wendy’s saw a 49.7% growth in profit from $129.6 million in 2016 to $194 million in 2017.

Starbucks – The Seattle chain consistently trends high on most social media platforms. One key metric published by Sprinklr projects their potential reach is approximately 74 million impressions, nearly 50% higher than their major competitor, Dunkin’ Donuts. Twitter has been their leading platform and the brand has 11.5 million followers. They use Twitter to promote their popular seasonal specialty drink Pumpkin Spice Latte (#PSL). They also use it as a recruiting tool for a Starbucks careers.

Whataburger – Social media is also as great way for smaller chains to garner a loyal following. For instance, regional powerhouse Whataburger (820+ units) frequently outperforms larger competitors in terms of engagement. The company has seen success using contests/sweepstakes as marketing tools and makes great use of real-time marketing to join popular conversations when it’s relevant to the brand. User-generated content is also huge, as some of its most recent popular posts have included Whataburger fashion such as Whataburger pants from an Instagram influencer or Whataburger eyeshadow. In addition, L2 Digital IQ Index ranked Whataburger at 97 on its Restaurants US 2017 report benchmarking the digital performance of 126 restaurants.


Chobani – The popular Greek yogurt company stands out when it comes to sustaining a fun, authentic social media presence. Their food visuals are an important feature on both their Pinterest and Instagram movements and include healthy recipes using yogurt as a sour cream substitute and containers professionally photographed with fruit. They use YouTube and Facebook to give their fans a look behind the scenes of the company (e.g., manufacturing process, charitable events, etc.) to create an air of transparency. Chobani also uses these platforms as customer service tools to engage with consumers.



Food and beverage companies are continually accelerating their game as it relates to implementing social movements to further connect with their communities. As you can see from this list of benchmarks, leading brands who do it well manage to stay creative while  also being transparent and authentic.