The Shake Shack Potato Roll Controversy, Explained

Martin's Sandwich Potato Rolls may be proud of its connection with Shake Shack and its classic burgers, but we're not sure if Shake Shack returns the love, particularly after the up-and-coming bakery's owners were exposed as key supporters and donors of state politician Doug Mastriano, who has made waves for his political beliefs. 

Mastriano is currently serving as a Pennsylvania state senator, but is looking to be elected governor in upcoming elections this November. He was present at the January 6 rally that preceded the attack on the U.S. Capitol and has been called in to testify before the committee that's trying to get to the bottom of that event. He's also made his stand on abortion clear, saying he plans to call for a vote on his proposed "heartbeat bill" (which he introduced in 2019) if Roe v. Wade is overturned, per Billy Penn

Mastriano is also an election denier, who has gone on the record to say, "I get to appoint the Secretary of State who's delegated from me the power to make the corrections to elections, the voting logs and everything. I could decertify every machine in the state with the stroke of a pen. I already had the Secretary of State picked out," per Capital and Main.

It doesn't help that Martin's Potato Rolls owner Jim Martin is the only person on record to have given Mastriano a six-figure donation this year (via The Morning Call), while Martin's wife Donna, has similarly given the controversial political figure $4,000 worth of "in kind donations."

Foodies are calling for a boycott of Martin's breads

Both social and mainstream media are going out of their way to highlight Shake Shack's ties with Doug Mastriano, the GOP nominee for Pennsylvania governor. In a series of Instagram posts, noted foodie Kenji Lopez-Alt called attention to Billy Penn's expose, saying:

"As a longtime fan of the products @potatorolls makes, the news that the Martin family is heavily backing an election-denying, far-right PA gubernatorial candidate is disheartening. Jim Martin has donated over $100k (the largest single donor) to Doug Mastriano's campaign. Among other things, Mastriano attended the Jan. 6 insurrection and supports a total abortion ban in PA. I will not be buying any more Martin's products, nor will I support any establishment that uses their buns until they change suppliers, and I'd urge you to do the same if you don't want your dollars supporting this stuff."

Lopez-Alt goes on to remind followers in a second post: "Buying Martin's @potatorolls puts money in the pocket of the Martin family, several members of whom have funded Mastriano's campaign, including Jim Martin, Mastriano's single largest donor. This is no joke. This is not small town local politics. This affects PA gubernatorial elections, which plays a pivotal role in US presidential elections."

A number of restaurants have already declared, publicly at least, that their business ties with Martin's Potato rolls won't last. Billy Penn quotes Mike Strauss of Mike's BBQ as saying, "At this point, I'm probably going to stop using them."

Meyer: 'We do make choices about who we buy from'

But at this point, it's difficult to say what direction the wind will take Shake Shack on this potentially contentious matter, particularly since the chain's founder Danny Meyer managed to turn more than a few heads not long after President Joe Biden won the 2020 elections by sending out a Tweet calling for unity. His post became the target of social media criticism instead, and it served as a lighting rod for all the anger people had nursed against the Trump administration, per The Washington Post.

While he refused to speak to the Post in 2020, Meyer did send an email to the newspaper, where he said: "We do make choices about who we buy from. But I've never believed it's our job to check the political affiliation of any of our guests before offering them hospitality. It's a slippery slope to task our team members with making judgments about other people."

For now at least, The Takeout says Shake Shack has refused the opportunity to comment about the brewing controversy. It remains to be seen what choices the company Meyer founded will make about the now-controversial company it is buying its potato rolls from.