Cracker Barrel Old Country Store ($CBRL) is in the middle of some serious beef (figuratively not literally) with Sardar Biglari, owner of Biglari Holdings Inc. ($BH), which owns Steak n' Shake. This is really more of a rivalry between Cracker Barrel and Steak 'n Shake, two similar sit-down restaurants that lean into Americana as a marketing point.

But things got really tense when Biglari made some harsh comments about Cracker Barrel the other day. Biglari accused Cracker Barrel’s management and board of demonstrating “a profound lack of business judgment by panic exiting Punch Bunch Social.”

Why is Biglari's beefing with Steak n' Shake management? He owns more than 8% of Cracker Barrel and has been planning to pursue board representation for a while. Ultimately, these public comments are just a silly reason to compare the two companies and see how they're handling business in the wake of COVID-19. Hard to make money with a sitdown restaurant chain when they're all closed down for social distancing guidelines.

So let's compare these two brands.

Right off the bat, both chains have sizable Twitter followings, but unfortunately, those numbers might not be going up any time soon. Cracker Barrel has had flat growth online for two years, and Steak 'n Shake saw a 7% drop in followers since 2018.

What's worse for Steak 'n Shake is that it is losing Facebook followers at a fairly rapid clip. The last three years have seen consecutive declines in interest, falling 5%. At the same time, 'Talking About', which measures the number of times a brand is mentioned by Facebook users in a day, has gone from wildly popular to average. In 2017, hundreds of thousands of Facebook posts were mentioning Steak 'n Shake on a daily basis. These days, that number is under 8,000 on any given day.

Cracker Barrel fares a little better, but you can still tell the recent self-quarantine has put a dent into whatever engagement the chain once had. Flat growth on Facebook likes and smaller talking about count will hopefully bounce back once people are allowed back into restaurants. Fingers crossed it's soon.

About the Data:

Thinknum tracks companies using the information they post online - jobs, social and web traffic, product sales and app ratings - and creates data sets that measure factors like hiring, revenue and foot traffic. Data sets may not be fully comprehensive (they only account for what is available on the web), but they can be used to gauge performance factors like staffing and sales. 

Further Reading: 

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