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Burger Bliss: Shake Shack and In-N-Out Stacking Visits

by 
Ezra Carmel
 on 
July 24, 2023
Burger Bliss: Shake Shack and In-N-Out Stacking Visits

In recent months, increased appetite for value eats has helped fast food and fast casual restaurants win the stomachs of budget-conscious consumers. And two popular burger joints with cult followings – fast casual favorite Shake Shack and fast food phenom In-N-Out Burger – drive some of the highest foot traffic numbers in their respective dining categories. We dove into the data for a closer look at how these all-American eateries are staying as hot as their patties and continue to serve up fresh visits. 

Burgers and Fries, On the Rise

Shake Shack and In-N-Out’s success is at least partially driven by their individual expansion strategies. For a number of years, In-N-Out has been growing in new markets while Shake Shack continues to open restaurants in a variety of formats and locations – from drive-thrus to airports. 

Since November 2022, In-N-Out and Shake Shack’s year-over-year (YoY) visits have outperformed the fast casual and fast food & QSR categories. In June 2023, Shake Shack and In-N-Out had 14.2% and 12.4% YoY visit growth, respectively, well ahead of YoY visits for the fast casual (4.8%) and fast food & QSR (2.6%) categories overall. 

And both brands’ succeeded in generating significant visit growth despite the current inflationary climate that has curbed consumer spending in many retail categories. This suggests that consumers continue to turn to fast food and fast casual chains for relatively cheap eats as high food inflation persists.

Interstate Burger and Shake

Analysis of the demographic characteristics of the chains’ visitors nationwide – and in states where both chains have a significant presence – provides insight into the brands’ target audiences. The data appears to indicate that Shake Shack drives traffic from more affluent consumers while In-N-Out’s visitors are more likely to be of near-average income. 

According to the STI: Popstats dataset, in H1 2023, the median household income (HHI) of visitors to Shake Shack in New York – its home state and largest market – was 19% higher than the NY state average. This was consistent with the median HHI of the chain’s visitors in California and Texas – the brand’s second and third largest markets – which were 18% and 24% higher than the average income in the state, respectively. 

In H1 2023, In-N-Out also attracted a distinct consumer demographic. In California – In-N-Out’s legacy and largest market – the median HHI of visitors was on par with the state average. And in Texas – the state with the second-most In-N-Out locations – the median HHI of visitors was just 10% above the state average. 

In multiple regions – and nationwide – Shake Shack appealed to diners that earn above average while In-N-Out’s visitors tended to earn closer to average. This pattern suggests that as the brands expand, they could find the most success in areas where the median HHI of consumers is relatively similar to their established markets. 

To-Go Bites

Location intelligence reveals that the winning combination of burgers, fries, and shakes maintains its prevalence in the American dining landscape. And consumers hungry for affordable meals find that burger chains like In-N-Out and Shake Shack hit the spot. That said, the two chains drive the bulk of their traffic from visitors of different income levels, indicating that demand for the burger and shake fix isn’t limited to one type of consumer.

Looking ahead, both chains are continuing to expand their footprints in order to reach more diners. In-N-Out’s announcement of a future Tennessee headquarters paves the way for locations in the Volunteer State and adjacent regions while Shake Shack’s rate of expansion makes it one of the fastest-growing dining chains. 

‍For updates and more data-driven foot traffic insights, visit Placer.ai.


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