Shake Shack takes swipes at Chick-fil-A. Is that fair?

Shake Shack brings attention to the fact that unlike one competitor, it is open on Sundays and serves NAE chicken.

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Shake Shack appears to be insulting Chick-fil-A in its new campaign for its Chicken Shack sandwich.
Shake Shack appears to be insulting Chick-fil-A in its new campaign for its Chicken Shack sandwich.
Shake Shack | X

Shake Shack’s latest chicken sandwich promotion doesn’t mention any names, but you can tell they are taking digs at Chick-fil-A.

On the chain’s website, it promotes “Chicken Shack Sundays in April,” which brings attention to the fact that Chick-fil-A is not open on Sundays.

Then, it uses the slogan “Eat More Antibiotic-Free Chicken,” an apparent jab to Chick-fil-A, which recently announced that it was backing off its earlier commitment to only serve chicken that was raised with no antibiotics ever (NAE), and switching to a no antibiotics important to human medicine (NAIHM) production strategy. Of course, that is also paraphrasing the Chick-fil-A slogan, “Eat Mor Chikin.”

If there is still any doubt as to what Shake Shack is doing, all you need to do is read the text under those two messages on its website. “Here at Shake Shack, we pride ourselves on our Chicken Shack which is available 7 days a week. With crispy, white-meat chicken breast over lettuce, pickles, and buttermilk herb mayo on a toasted potato bun, this sandwich outshines its competition. And what makes our Chicken Shack even better, is that it’s made with antibiotic-free chicken, something not everyone can say these days...

“Every Sunday in April, we are offering a Free Chicken Shack with $10 minimum purchase with promo code: CHICKENSUNDAY. Just go to your nearest participating Shake Shack or order on our app or website to taste the true difference.”

Oh, and Shake Shack has also taken its message to social media. On X, formerly known as Twitter, Shake Shack posted a picture of its Chicken Shack sandwich, with the message: “Eat More Chicken Shacks.”

Cheap shots or fair game?

One thing I’ve noticed is that faithful Chick-fil-A customers can be a little defensive about their chain of choice. So, I have to ask if Shake Shack was out of line.

First, let’s look at the Sunday situation. Chick-fil-A, which is pretty in-your-face about its Christian principles, often gets criticized for not being open on Sunday, or the Sabbath day.

I think people should take a chill pill about that. In fact, as a Christian myself, I wouldn’t mind seeing more businesses being closed on Sundays, or at least on spiritual holidays such as Easter and Christmas.

Having said that, I think Chick-fil-A can express the importance of Christ without doing so in what often seems like a boastful or condescending manner. Not that I’m a shining example, but if you send me a work-related email on Easter or any other Sunday, I won’t make you feel like a heathen for doing so. I simply won’t read it until Monday.

Now let’s take a look at Shake Shack throwing shade at Chick-fil-A for deviating from its earlier NAE pledge. They make it sound like that’s a bad thing. It really isn’t.

You can argue science all you want on the benefits of NAE production versus NAIHM production, but there’s no denying that NAE is largely a marketing move, one that Chick-fil-A pounced on earlier than most of its competitors.

Seeing how the nation’s biggest supplier, Tyson Foods, announced a switch from NAE to NAIHM production for its Tyson branded chicken, there’s reason to believe other integrators will follow suit. And if that happens, it will be more difficult for Chick-fil-A to secure a supply of NAE chicken.

I would be remiss to not ponder whether Shake Shack is dissing Chick-fil-A to take the heat off of itself. After all, Shake Shack was recently challenged over its claims to raise hormone-free chicken. The company looks quite foolish in doing so, since hormones in animals are a natural-occurring phenomenon, and it is against federal law for poultry producers to give chickens added hormones.

Even though I have found flaws in what Shake Shack has done with its recent Sunday sandwich promotion, I am not offended by what they are doing and feel like if they want to disrespect Chick-fil-A, that’s their prerogative. They say all is fair in love and war, and since there is a chicken sandwich war going on, this must be fair.

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