Last month, Yelp released its first-ever list of the 50 most loved food, restaurant and retail brands in the U.S. The company says these companies reflect the values of the Yelp user community — they are affordable, have great customer service, and offer consistent, high-quality products.
Some of the brands that made the top five may surprise you. Some will probably not! What they have in common, according to the Yelp blog, is that they offer good value for the money and have loyal fans and communities. The choices also indicate that people love their food; while retail brands are represented throughout the 50 top brands, four out of the top five are either restaurants or places that sell food.
Yelp decided on these brands by looking at food and retail brands that had more than 200 locations in at least 25 U.S. states. They had to have more than 500 reviews and at least one review for every two locations in 2022. Each brand received a loyalty score, which consisted of the brands’ 2022 review rating and the percentage of business page views from returning visitors.
Listed below are the top five brands. Are any of them on your personal list?
1. Trader Joe’s
Did you know that “Trader Joe” is a real guy? Joe Coulombe started the national grocery chain in Pasadena, California, in 1967. The store quickly made a name for itself not by stocking big brands, but by offering unique and interesting finds and everyday basics under the company’s own label.
“I have an ideal audience in mind,” Coulombe told the Los Angeles Times in 1981. “This is a person who got a Fulbright scholarship, went to Europe for a couple of years and developed a taste for something other than Velveeta.”
In other words, he created Trader Joe’s for well-educated, well-traveled customers, and it looks like that strategy has worked. Trader Joe’s buys direct and in volume to get the best prices and doesn’t charge suppliers fees, resulting in lower costs that has turned the company — which earned $16.5 billion in revenue in 2020 — into a phenomenon with 530 stores across the nation.
2. Nothing Bundt Cakes
Who doesn’t love the classic round cakes you cook in a bundt pan? Back in 1997, founders Dena Tripp and Debbie Shwetz started this company in their home kitchens in Las Vegas after Tripp brought a bundt cake to her friend’s house and the two started discussing how to frost it. They started franchising in 2007. Today, the chain has more than 500 stores in more than 40 states and Canada.
The handcrafted cakes are available in four different sizes and several different flavors and baked daily. According to this recent post on the company’s Facebook, even “The Mandalorian”‘s Grogu, who canonically loves to eat whenever he can, is a fan.
3. Kung Fu Tea
Now this one was a surprise to us, but a welcome one. Who knew this boba tea purveyor had more than 350 locations across North America? Kung Fu Tea calls itself “America’s largest bubble tea brand” and prides itself on serving tea “freshly brewed at the perfect temperature using premium tea leaves.”
The company started opening stories in 2010 in Queens, New York and started franchising a year later. It stands at No. 57 on Entrepreneur’s 2023 list of fastest-growing franchises. The company is focused on providing an authentically Asian and Asian-American experience, but hopes to make the Taiwanese drink with tapioca pearls a mainstream treat. So far, so good.
The brand celebrated its position on the Yelp list on Twitter:
We've been named Yelp's #3 Most Loved Brand!
Thanks for supporting us in our mission to spread the joys of bubble tea for all 🌏#boba #bubbletea #bobagang #KFT #milktea #bobabesties #americasbubbletea #bobamilktea #bobatea #bobalife #bobaaddict #bobarista #bobatime pic.twitter.com/PhXdKCmsaG
— Kung Fu Tea (@kfteausa) May 4, 2023
4. First Watch
This daytime-only restaurant chain was launched in 1983 by John Sullivan and Ken Pendery in Pacific Grove, California, but has since had a few owners and went public in 2021. Named for a nautical term, the locations are only open from 7 a.m.–2:30 p.m., a single shift during which it serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Despite that limitation, the restaurants have been thriving; Restaurant Business reports that First Watch rebounded quickly from the pandemic and that each location generates about $1.6 million. As of two years ago, there were about 423 locations in 28 states.
First Watch is known for its fresh ingredients, generous portions and traditional breakfast fare, plus some creative options, like the Tacos Al Pastor Hash shown on Facebook.
5. Floor and Decor
The only non-food-related business in the top five, Floor and Decor is a specialty retailer that sells hard-surface flooring — we’re talking tile, wood and stone, plus related tools and accessories. Maybe you’ve seen their huge warehouse stores.
This company was founded in Florida and is headquartered in Atlanta. What sets it apart? Well, it has a large in-stock selection and promises low prices. It also offers free design services and installation along with storage and delivery. Each store has a local focus, so it can offer experiences and products that meet the needs of different markets.
As of about a year ago, this chain had 160 locations in 33 states — and planned to add 500 more to that count in the next decade. According to Forbes, its sales growth (12.6%) is three times higher than that of hard surface flooring as a while (4%) between 2016–2021.
This Facebook post showcases a black basalt limestone tiling that looks perfect in the bathroom:
Other favorite brands that Yelp placed in its top 50 include The Cheesecake Factory, Olive Garden, HomeGoods, Lululemon, Shake Shack, Dave & Busters, Costco, Culver’s, Nike and Starbucks. Yelp also ranked the best-liked brands in different states and most-loved food items (like P.F. Chang’s chicken lettuce wraps and Insomnia cookies) from well-loved brands. To find out whether your favorite brand is represented, you’ll want to check the full list here.