Every year, The Harris Poll looks at the strongest brands of the year across a variety of industries, based on consumer response. Brands ranking highest in the consumer survey receive The Harris Poll EquiTrend "Brand of the Year" award for their respective categories. This year, more than 77,000 U.S. consumers assessed more than 3,000 brands across more than 300 categories.
In addition to ranking brands based on their familiarity, quality and purchase consideration (all which contribute to what Harris calls brand equity), the brands of the year data shows trends in consumer behavior. The interesting take away from this year's survey is that more customers are turning to a smaller set of brands they know and trust, and those brands aren't always the media giants. In fact, only 10 percent of brands saw a significant increase in their brand equity from 2017.
"The EQ study reveals that brand equity is no longer guaranteed by size or media impressions," says The Harris Poll CEO, John Gerzema. "This is actually a time when being 'big' is code for being the establishment. As private label and the popularity of craft products rises, brands are now differentiated on their values, personal connection and their ability to build community."
Here are the best brands in the food-related categories.
1. Best Burger Restaurant: Five Guys
The popular burger chain, which started and is headquartered in northern Virginia, didn't start offering franchises until 2003 (20 years after opening). Now they have opened up over 1,300 locations nationwide, with many more on the way. They also have locations in Canada, France, Ireland, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the United Kingdom.
2. Best Casual Dining Restaurant: (TIE) The Cheesecake Factory and Texas Roadhouse
The first Cheesecake Factory opened in 1978; there are more than 200 locations of the chain with the extensive menu around the world today.
Texas Roadhouse serves 300,000 meals a day at the steakhouse's more than 500 locations across 49 states and seven other countries. Their yeast rolls are baked fresh every five minutes and the chain is only open for dinner during the week.
3. Best Chicken Restaurant: Chick-fil-A
There is absolutely no surprise here -- from the chicken chain's legendarily nice employees to their great food, of course Chick-fil-A is the top brand in this category. It helps that the chain is continuing to expand and that it's on its way to becoming the third largest fast food brand in the U.S. by 2020.
4. Best Coffee Shop: Krispy Kreme
Krispy Kreme stores make between 3,000 and 12,000 doughnuts per hour, which is a lot of fried dough. And instead of driving past your local store over and over waiting for the Hot light to flight on, get the Hot Light app to tell when exactly when it's time to visit.
5. Best Coffee Maker: Keurig
More and more people are moving to making single serve cups of coffee and tea (and let's be honest -- it's so much nicer to have Keurig's in the breakroom of your workplace instead of pots of coffee that someone always seems to empty and then disappear without making a new one, right?).
6. Best Ice Cream & FroYo Shop: Ben & Jerry's
Even after being sold by the company's founders to Unilever, the nicest ice cream company around is still headquartered in Vermont and they still pride themselves on being quirky and developing fun, unique ice cream flavors.
7. Best Major Appliances: KitchenAid Appliances
From the big appliances in your kitchen to your favorite stand mixer, KitchenAid is still a trusted brand for many kitchens.
8. Best Mexican Restaurant: Taco Bell
Taco Bell works so hard to engage with their customers, from a truly excellent social media strategy to creating opportunities like Taco Bell weddings. The chain may still be the favorite for a late night drive thru run, but it's because they have such a solid fan base.
9. Best Pizza Chain: Blaze Pizza
The youngest chain to be awarded Brand of the Year in the food-related categories, Blaze Pizza first opened in 2012 in Irvine, California. Since then, the pizza chain that is built on exceptional quality at lightning fast speed has grown to 240 restaurants in 35 states and Canada.
10. Best Sandwich Shop: (TIE) Panera and Subway
Subway may be having issues right now resulting in the closing of hundreds of stores in the U.S., but the brand is still a recognized and trusted one. Expect to see the sandwich chain try to turn that trust into more international expansion.
Panera has been in the vanguard of offering high-tech options to its customers as well as focusing on a menu built entirely of clean food that does not contain artificial preservatives, flavors, or sweeteners and colors from artificial sources.