Shake Shack Uses A Controversial Grocery Store Bun For Its Iconic Burgers

To make a truly awesome burger, one that keeps customers coming back again and again, all components must be exactly right. At Shake Shack, the iconic fast-food eatery that began its existence as a humble hot dog cart in New York City, burgers are treated to a multi-step process to ensure they meet patrons' high standards.

When it comes to the buns used for its burgers, Shake Shack insists on using potato rolls from Martin's Famous Pastry Shoppe, a Pennsylvania-based business that has customers all over the globe. In addition to the U.S. and Canada, Martin's distributes its products to food service businesses in the Middle East, Europe, South America, Africa, Asia, and Australia, among many other locales. And like most who've tasted one of Martin's potato rolls, Shake Shack can attest to the brand's quality. However, the popular burger joint has received backlash for continuing to do business with the bakery after the political leanings of the Martin family have come to light.

When potato rolls and politics collide

As executive chairman of Martin's Famous Pastry Shoppe, Jim Martin is an important figure at the family-owned bakery. That's why many customers were disappointed to learn that Martin, as well as his wife and daughter, are strong supporters of former Republican gubernatorial candidate and current Pennsylvania state senator Doug Mastriano. No matter one's political leanings, it's easy to see why Mastriano is such a controversial figure. In addition to his hardline stance on abortion and association with QAnon, the senator has flirted with antisemitism and homophobia and also played a role on January 6, 2021, when leagues of angry Donald Trump supporters attacked the U.S. Capitol under the pretense of a stolen election.

Martin was responsible for donating $110,000 to Mastriano's gubernatorial campaign, which raised the ire of many people in the food and restaurant industry. Chef and food writer J. Kenji López-Alt was quoted as saying "I will not be buying any more Martin's products, nor will I support any establishment that uses their buns," on Instagram, with other industry notables issuing similar statements. As for the businesses that purchase products from Martin's, the situation seems a lot more complex.

The cost of doing business is often steep

When asked about its dealings with Martin's Famous Pastry Shoppe, Shake Shack released a statement to Insider claiming that the company prizes equality and does not endorse or make contributions to political campaigns as a business. The burger chain also emphasized that it does not share the political leanings of the Martin family but stopped short of saying it would no longer purchase buns from the business. Many other businesses, including Quinnie's, a Hudson, New York-based eatery, and Mike's BBQ, located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, have vowed to cease using Martin's products.

As for Martin's, the business claimed on Instagram that it does not endorse political candidates in an official capacity, but instead urged all U.S. citizens to take part in elections to make their voices heard. And while a spokesperson for the company acknowledged criticism of the Martin family's politics to Insider, they said the business's primary focus is on creating quality products for customers and food industry businesses alike. While one could make a solid argument for keeping business and politics separate, it's understandable that consumers would have a tough time swallowing the Martins' support of such a polarizing political figure.