Shake Shack vs Chick-fil-A — Social Fans Edition

Apr 4, 2016 | Insights

Before we get to yammering, let’s just jump feet first into stats. They hint at the story we’re telling this time all on their own.

(As a quick explanation of what you’re looking at, the percentage shown in the blue line is the percentage of this specific audience (fans of Chick-fil-A in the case of the below list) who are also fans of the TV show in question. The grey line represents the percentage of average social media users who are fans of the same show. The metric to the far right we’ll get to in a moment.)

The Top 10 TV Shows Among Chick-fil-A’s Fans By Percentage

The Top 10 TV Shows Among Shake Shack’s Fans By Percentage

StatSocial likes to go on and on about how our stats tell a story. Well, above is a haiku.

There you go. We already know who we’re dealing with, and that these audiences are quite different from one another. One watches Fox News and Duck Dynasty, the other Amy Schumer and The Daily Show.

Granted, they’re not polar opposites — they both like their Matt Lauer and Al Roker, as any reasonable audience would. But here’s your America in capsule.

The social audiences of the most diametrically opposed fast food joints we could think of, regionally and culturally speaking, seemed a brilliant place to cast our analytical eye in these turbulent times. What a perfect way to demonstrate the granularity and specificity of our reporting, as well as show off to what degree StatSocial really does accurately interpret the heart and soul of all it looks at. We get to the brass tacks, but we miss no nuance, make no assumptions, and celebrate that these social audiences cannot be pigeonholed, anymore than the individuals of whom they’re comprised.

We hear much talk of a “culture war,” and have done for the past decade or five. Here at StatSocial our beliefs, politics, credos, and even favorite films differ from one another company-wide. We all get along fine. Constant talk these days is of ideological and cultural differences so impassable they can never be surmounted. We’re a nation divided, we’re told.

But there’s always going to be a TODAY show to get the conversation started, and we’re big believers that when you dig deeper, and bother to get to know each other, you may find all the fussin’ and a feuding (not to make light of it) is largely based in superficial differences and purely aesthetic preferences.

A visual representation of two of our nation’s few uniters, and the tolerance they inspire

In other words, we favor no one and decidedly take no sides, but that doesn’t mean we’ll steer clear of a little fun sensationalism when it comes to hawking our frankly awesome data. The culture war gets attention, and attention is always welcome, especially when it highlights how companies leverage our data.

Who the Heck Are We Talking About Anyway?

For this piece we’re looking at two fast food establishments representative of the “two Americas.”

First, Shake Shack, a New York City born phenomenon. Selling burgers, fries, and shakes with the humblest beginnings, as a food cart in Madison Square Park, located in what’s now regarded as the city’s Flatiron District. It was quickly promoted to its own kiosk within the park, and soon thereafter word of mouth spread like wildfire, and waits of 45 minutes and up were the norm.

In the earlier days of food blogging — if there ever was a “glory” period for that practice — it was certainly one of the earlier triumphs of a buzz begun by blog. Soon enough it busted out, and beyond the borders of the tri-state area. It is now one of the most rapidly expanding fast food franchises there is. In late ’14 they became a publicly traded company. Their IPO asking price was $21 a share, and apparently their stock rose by 123% trading for $47 a share by day’s end.

What gets some people’s goats about Shake Shack, it seems, is what’s perceived as an air of urban superiority. While a burger joint, it’s managed to maintain a public perception of being somehow slightly upmarket. It’s expansion has been mostly into what would be deemed “hipper” cities, and it takes up residence in those cities’ “hipper” neighborhoods. It flaunts the buzz it built in New York, and seems to replicate it in each new town.

It’s well known that the Shack also have made efforts to appear a more progressive establishment. Using hormone free meat and GMO free bread, and paying their employees $1.50-$2.00 above the industry average. As for the pay, CEO Randy Garutti couched this decision in terms of pragmatism not philanthropy; “to get the right people, pay people right,”

Is it better? That’s not for our data to decide. It’s definitely more expensive, but we’re not food critics so we’ll move on. Let it at least be said, it surely has its fans — and StatSocial knows who they are. We also acknowledge that while the novelty of hipness has a shelf-life, obviously people do quite enjoy their food.

Chick-fil-A, the other restaurant in this comparison is also of humble beginnings, and made its initial mark as a local phenomenon. It must be noted, though, it lacks the professional foodie/food blogger seal of approval that gave Shake Shack its initial boost; having been founded by the recently deceased S. Truett Cathy (d. 2014), in College Park, Georgia in 1946, as Dwarf House (where Truett first invented the chicken sandwich which would eventually make him a very wealthy man). It never have had much of a chance to make a splash in those days as the bloggers back then didn’t know what they were talking about. Those 40s guys didn’t even really know about computers, and had never even even heard of the internet (food blogs didn’t really take off until at least after the Korean War… by like, 50 years or so).

How this applies to all this “culture war” babble is that Chick-fil-A, a private company, proudly conducts its business in strict accordance with its ownership’s Southern Baptist beliefs. This manifests itself most noticeably in all franchise locations being closed on Sundays.

Other matters regarding the company’s management have made headlines and caused controversies in recent years. Picket signs were flung about, including in Shake Shack’s hometown, boycotts were promised, etc. But when the chain recently began opening locations in Shake Shack’s “liberal, elitist” Manhattan home, many more people were lined up for the delicious food Chick-fil-A had on offer than to register any disapproval.

And we’d be remiss were we not to mention that the Shack, a couple of years back, tried to trademark the name “Chicken Shack.” That they didn’t get, but they got their mits on the quite catchy Chick’n Shack name, and accompanied it with what we’re told is a tasty sandwich, which is available at all their locations.

So, competition here transcends the solely theoretical.

The Multiple Metric

Returning to data, the reason we all gathered here today, while the subject of the boob tube is not too far behind us, we’ll revisit it and seize upon this opportunity to both tell a bit more of this entry’s “story,” and show off our “multiple” metric.

Sometimes the “multiple” can tell the fullest story in a way raw numbers and percentages alone just can’t do. This special metric of ours can gets straight to the “who the heck are these people, really?” aspect of an audience. What we calculate with the “multiple,” which is incredibly cool, is the likelihood of any social audience’s members engaging in a certain behavior or affinity, compared to the average person. For example, in a recent post here on the blog we revealed that fans of Netflix‘s Fuller House are over 130 times more likely to be fans of Dave Coulier than the average social media user.

To summarize quickly, the column to the far right in the charts above shows the multiple for each item. So, therefore, what the chart is telling us is that fans of Chick-fil-A are 8.28 times more likely to be fans of ‘Duck Dynasty’ than the average social media user. Glancing down at the Shake Shack list, one can’t help but notice that the “culture war” narrative remains undisturbed as the Shack’s list is topped by The Daily Show their audience over six times more likely to be fans.

But let’s look at things in this other way, using the “multiple.”

The Top 10 TV Shows Among Chick-fil-A’s Fans By Multiple

We thought we had this thing tied up already, and here we go. The plot does indeed thicken. The shape of the narrative doesn’t change, but it sure as heck becomes much more rich and detailed.

A conspicuous, not even vaguely ambiguous conservative streak surfaces, with five Fox News shows on the list. Also, college football emerges as a concern, taking up two of the remaining spots. This is the first sign — without even looking at geographic data, which we will in depth in a subsequent entry — that certain parts of the country will likely emerge as more prominent than others. While popular everywhere, college football simply rules certain regions, whereas NFL shows would be much more likely to dominate in others.

Perhaps what next stands out the most is History Channel’s “The Bible,” of which this lot is 12 times more likely to be a fan than the average social media user. We know little of the program we’ll admit, other than it was a miniseries of Bible stories. It is rather widely known, as stated above, that the privately owned Chick-fil-A has proudly built their corporate culture in accordance with their Southern Baptist beliefs, as is their First Amendment right. (We will not address any controversies born of the beliefs of Chick-fil-A’s ownership and management, for the record, as that’s not what we’re here for.)

But the prominence of this miniseries is thus far the first explicit evidence that the Chick-fil-A audience, likely to a degree in excess of the average, share in those beliefs. Regardless, add to that five Fox News shows, two college football shows, and a country music awards show we have a picture of this audience much less subtle than the list that opens this blog entry. And do recall, we already felt we had our story by then.

Now, let’s get honest and, without peeking, theorize with immense confidence that the Chick-fil-A audience skews toward the southern portion of the United States, although they are a very popular national chain.

We bring this up because anyone who has spent five minutes in the great southland of this beautiful country knows that nobody loves their food, and their cooking, more than the residents of those states south of the Mason-Dixon line. Down there, when it comes to grub, there’s no joking around.

The very notion to these people that there’s some certain class of yankee individuals — amateur gourmands — who appreciate their food just a little bit more than most people (i.e., “foodies”), to the degree where they even take pictures of it, can bring about a great deal more than chuckles.

The Top 10 TV Shows Among Shake Shack’s Fans By Multiple

Now when sorted by “multiple” is this Shake Shack list a “foodie” list? It depends how you define “foodie.” Six of the 10 programs are explicitly food related, even if not hoity-toity “for bon vivants only” type programming. Indeed a show where a guy eats bugs, and another where a guy eats himself sick on pizza are difficult to describe as “foodie” shows, per se. But Shake Shack isn’t exactly Le Cirque. So, really what you’re dealing with is an audience who likes to watch people eat on TV.

At this time we will admit that such an audience — one satisfied by the mere sight of people eating — might be inclined to wait on line for an hour for a really good hamburger. Hype can get you to do that once or twice, but only really loving that burger will get you to do it over and over again.

As for what more this list reveals, it seems that hipster yankee urbanites aren’t as engaged in their ideological and/or spiritual beliefs as their Bible Belt counterparts, at least not in so far as their TV viewing habits are concerned. Shake Shack’s fans really are just folks who love food to the extent where they’ll watch Adam Richman gorge on spicy shrimp to the point of near death, and they’ll do so to a degree exceeding the average social media audience by THIRTY-ONE times.

They could watch a great film — like say ‘Midnight Cowboy’ or ‘The Wild Bunch’’ — or read a book, like Tale of Two Cities, or even go play with their children, but instead they choose to watch people eat on television. And then presumably — — at least often — they themselves go and buy a hamburger, and they do this at Shake Shack.

But they have an attitude about it, or so goes the theory. Trufthfully, nothing here either proves or dispels that.

Here, with all this talk of their management’s personal beliefs, we’d like to point out that we personally know some very picky and discerning yanks who think Chick-fil-A, for a fast food joint, is positively aces. We’ve heard from decidedly non-Southern Baptists — although admittedly of southern origins — that no other chicken chain in the country comes close.

Bookmark this page, as tomorrow we examine where in America each of these establishments is making the biggest impacts. It’s not nearly as clear-cut as you might think.

To learn much more about StatSocial, the curious are encouraged to visit the StatSocial site itself, where you’ll find all sorts of stuff including sample reports.

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