Humanizing Data: Restaurant Business Wins Multi-Platform Package of the Year

From a profile of Dave’s Hot Chicken to a podcast with an executive from Crumbl Cookies, Restaurant Business’ “The Top 500” coverage includes not just the rankings of largest US restaurant chains by sales, but articles, video and podcasts.

The package won Multi-Platform Package of the Year in this year’s Azbee Awards. Judges lauded everything from the contextual reporting — including profiles of individual restaurants — to the layout of the landing page and the package’s overall design.

“This is a great example of how to take a data-heavy report and humanize it,” according to judges’ comments.

Top500Judges also noted the multimedia aspects of coverage complemented the written text and added additional color to stories. They didn’t simply repeat what had been reported in the written text.

The Top 500 list itself is compiled by Restaurant Business’ sister company Technomic, Restaurant Business Editor-in-Chief Jonathan Maze said. The list has been produced for the last 20 years.

When putting together the package, Maze said he starts by looking at the data and searching for trends.

“I will look at things on a three-year basis. I will look at overall trends. I will take a look at performance on average by chain size,” he said. “I will look at different sectors and things like that.”

The stories come from the data as well as insights gained from day-to-day coverage of the restaurant industry.

“You can see, hey, look, this chain is performing very well,” Maze said. “Let’s find out more about it. To me that’s a lead into ‘let’s do a feature story on this chain.’”

One example: Crumbl Cookies. The package included a podcast interview with Crumbl Cookies founder Jason McGowan.

“You can write about the data itself, which can be fine,” he said. “But you also get leads into good feature stories or other stories.” 

You can also find companies doing well but flying under the radar.

“You can use [the data] to defeat assumptions,” he said. “Everybody is saying, well, this type of concept is doing real well, but you take a look at the data and we know that’s not true.”

The Top 500 is Restaurant Business’ biggest project every year, and it is the most closely-watched look at the largest restaurant chains. 

For the package, Restaurant Business aims to use data and analysis, opinion, profiles and in-depth features. The project includes multiple podcasts and videos as well as support through social media channels. Stories run over a course of 10 weeks.

And the top restaurant on the list? It’s McDonald’s.

No surprise there. Maze said the Golden Arches is dominant in the US and is the largest restaurant chain in the world. “In the US, they do not have as many locations as Subway or Starbucks, but on a sales basis they’re far bigger than both of them, combined actually,” he said.

Craig Johnson

Craig Johnson started as a reporter in 1993 at a weekly newspaper in California’s Central Valley. Today, he is editorial director at Staffing Industry Analysts, which covers staffing and related companies through a print magazine, daily email newsletters and more.

Johnson currently serves on the ASBPE National Board of Directors.

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