Another year is behind us, and although the vaccine rollout allowed us to do slightly more gathering, traveling, and indoor dining than we had the year before, 2021 consumers remained dedicated to restaurant takeout and fast food delivery. Hell, Wendy’s even redesigned its menu to cater specifically to delivery orders. But which global brand did consumers seek out most in 2021? Which restaurant chain saw the most Google hits nationwide? Can you take a guess? Hint: It’s not McDonald’s.
Ahrefs, an internet traffic analysis platform, recently updated its blog with a list of the top 100 Google searches of 2021. This list didn’t just pertain to food, but rather everything we searched for across the year. (That includes typos; more people searched for “maceys” than “macys,” for example.) Facebook, YouTube, and Amazon took the top three spots, followed by other utility-driven searches like “weather,” “Yahoo Mail,” and the like. But the top food/beverage brand directly Googled by Americans in 2021 was Starbucks, sitting 39th on the list with 18,210,000 searches.
Searches for Starbucks far outpaced those of the next highest contender, McDonald’s, the latter of which is by far America’s biggest restaurant chain in terms of sales. Starbucks, however, is the second-largest chain and has many more locations than McDonald’s. Here are some potential reasons that people might be Googling Starbucks more often than McDonald’s:
- More Starbucks locations means more occasion to double-check where the nearest Starbucks is
- Menu availability varies more across Starbucks than McDonald’s (especially when it comes to items like alternative milk), prompting customers to scope out the menu before ordering
- Seasonal offerings are rotated in and out with greater frequency, meaning customers are left to Google to find out whether, for example, the Pumpkin Spice Latte has returned yet
- In urban centers, where Starbucks locations are most highly concentrated, tourists are potentially more likely to be Googling to find out where the nearest location is
Heck, some people might just associate Starbucks with reliably available public restrooms and need to take a leak. The point is, there are lots of interesting inferences that can be made from looking at our Google searches, a unique window into how we live our lives and how brands fit into them.
Other top-Googled chains of 2021 include:
- McDonald’s (#44, at 15,680,000 searches)
- Domino’s (#55, at 13,080,000 searches)
- Chick-fil-A (#56, at 13,060,000 searches)
- Pizza Hut (#75, at 10,330,000 searches)
- Taco Bell (#94, at 8,250,000 searches)
Does this list square with what you would have guessed? Did anyone expect Domino’s and Chick-fil-A to be in such dead heat? Is anyone else amused by the revelation that the Google search term “food” sits directly between Chick-fil-A and Pizza Hut in the rankings? Try making a friend guess which six chains made the top 100. For an extra fun twist: if they say “Subway,” they automatically lose.