Greggs is the most successful quick-service restaurant (QSR) brand in the eyes of consumers, and Costa the most successful coffee shop brand, according to a new study.

The CGA EI/Stone & River Brand Momentum Report measures how customer opinion is changing towards businesses. It looks at factors including new openings, awareness, opinions and loyalty (see details below). It deliberately does not factor in financial performance.

“Our snapshot of out-of-home eating and drinking brands reveals the names that are increasing awareness and generating loyalty and word of mouth – as well as the ones that are slipping behind in public opinion,” said Karl Chessell, business unit director for retail and food at data and research consultancy CGA.

“It shows the simplicity of some of the elements of successful branding – but also how challenging it can be to achieve them on the frontline. Staying on top of consumer habits and opinions is going to be crucial if brands are to generate momentum in this ultra-competitive market, and CGA’s data can help them do so.”

Costa topped the table for the coffee and food-to-go sector, with scores showing it “can still attract new consumers while keeping existing ones happy”.

“Its convenience and value proposition are among the reasons for its continued impetus in the food-to-go sector,” stated the report.

Second place went to the rapidly expanding Patisserie Valerie brand, which has grown from fewer than 10 stores 10 years ago to around 200 now, prompting awareness of the brand to soar.

Greggs, which shifted its position away from traditional bakery to focus on food-to-go in recent years, took pole position in the QSR category. McDonald’s, which has also reinvented itself with a healthier offering, placed second.

“The conclusion from the success of Greggs and McDonald’s is that businesses need to maintain investment in their customer experiences and be ready to carefully tweak their brands if they are to maintain momentum In the QSR sector. It simply isn’t an option to stand still,” stated the report.

The Momentum Report reflected an industry in flux, said Alex Doman, engagement manager at consultancy Stone & River

“It points to some key learnings about what it takes to build momentum: having an easy-to-understand and simple-to-deliver brand proposition, a focus on creating long-term value for the customer and targeting the older generation can all often be beneficial,” said Alex Doman, engagement manager at Stone & River.

The full CGA EI/Stone & River Brand Momentum Report can be downloaded here.

The report’s three key measures

Awareness Trend

  • A measure of how consumer awareness of the brand has improved. This figure shows the percentage change in the number of consumers who are aware of the brand over the last three years. Brands whose awareness levels have increased the most score highest.

Next Consumer

  • An index of consumers who would consider visiting the brand in the future versus lapsed users of those businesses. Lapsed consumers is defined by people who have not visited a brand in the past six months, but who have done so in the past two years. Brands with a higher proportion of consumers who would consider visiting in the future than those who are lapsed receive higher scores.

Opinion Index

  • A measure of how consumers’ opinions about brands are changing. Scores are based on the difference between the number of people who say their opinion of a brand has changed positively in the last year and the number who have had a negative opinion change.