Retail traders have been flocking to a horde of new meme stocks this week – from a mining company to a fast-food chain and a car retailer.
The stocks, from a wide variety of sectors, don’t have much in common, except that they’re seeing increased social media hype and price volatility. Even their short-interest rates – a coveted metric that Reddit traders use to determine if a stock is primed for a short squeeze – vary considerably.
Restoration Hardware was among the new names. The home-furnishings retailer soared as much as 15% Thursday amid a jump in positive Reddit chatter.
Another new meme stock is Clean Energy Fuels. The Newport Beach, California-based natural gas provider has become so popular this week that it took over as the most-hyped company among retail traders on Reddit investing threads, HypeEquity data showed. Reddit listed the company on its “daily popular tickers thread” alongside Clover Health and BlackBerry.
Even so, the company has had a volatile 24 hours. It closed Wednesday 31.5% higher only to fall in Thursday trading.
It isn’t the only new meme stock this week to whipsaw from big gains to losses.
ContextLogic, a mobile e-commerce company, surged Tuesday, erased some gains Wednesday and turned back upward Thursday. Quiver Quantitative listed the company as the most-discussed ticker on June 9 on Reddit with nearly 4,000 mentions. By comparison, meme-stock classic AMC Entertainment had just 1,400 mentions.
The second-most mentioned stock according to the data was Cleveland-Cliffs, an Ohio-based iron-ore mining company.
The stock, listed under the ticker CLF, jumped 14.6% in Wednesday trading to its highest since 2014, briefly continuing the rally Thursday before turning lower. Bullish posts from Redditors put the stock at a “strong buy,” according to HypeEquity data, as it had three times the number of buy to sell mentions.
Wendy’s is another new name. The fast-food restaurant surged 26% Tuesday, thanks to social media hype from retail traders, and then it erased half its gains from the day prior on Wednesday and continued to fall Thursday.
One Redditor with a long comment history advised others, “Cut your losses and get out.”
Positive social volume about Invesco Mortgage, a Nebraska-based real estate investment trust, took off on Reddit this week, too, as the stock rallied 17.8% Wednesday and continued to build on its gains Thursday.
Little-known UWM Holdings, the Pontiac, Michigan-based mortgage lender, saw about 1,000 mentions on Reddit, Quiver Quantitative data showed. Redditors have pointed out the opportunity for a short-squeeze in the stock in the past, as it has a 21% short interest rate, according to MarketBeat.
Though causing big losses for short sellers has been a stated goal for traders on Wall Street Bets since the GameStop saga earlier this year, the newer meme stocks do not have as high of a short interest that set the stage for other short squeezes.
Compared to meme-stock classics, AMC and GameStop, which have a 21% short interest rate, the new stocks don’t have as much, as retail traders have actually scared off some short sellers.
Wendy’s, for example, has just 4% short interest rate, while Cleaveland-Cliffs and Clean Energy Fuels have a 9% and 7% rate, respectively. ContextLogic, Restoration Hardware, and Invesco Mortgage have the highest with an 11.5%, 13%, and 15% short interest, according to MarketBeat data.
The Geo Group, the Boca Raton, Florida-based private-prison company, has also been mentioned as a potential new meme-stock name. The company has a 35% short interest rate, and soared 38.4% Wednesday before declining Thursday.
But Geo wasn’t listed on HypeEquity as trending or listed among top stocks on Quiver Quantitative. Many Redditors shunned the idea that they were responsible for the record gain Wednesday. One Redditor, echoing the confusion among Wall Street Bets followers, said, “GEO jumped up 30% pre market without a mention on the wsb sub. No explanation though.”
Reddit traders are driving rallies in a string of new meme stocks this week, including Clean Energy Fuels and ContextLogic, among others.
Clean Energy Fuels, the Newport Beach, California-based natural gas provider, jumped 45% Wednesday, as ContextLogic, the mobile e-commerce company, jumped 28%, building on a 50% rise during Tuesday’s trading session.
The two new meme stocks were among the top-trending companies on Reddit investing threads like Wall Street Bets, according to HypeEquity data. Largely bullish Redditors agreed ContextLogic “has room to grow,” and as for Clean Energy Fuels, the phrase “short squeeze” was a common theme.
Recently, Redditors have also renewed their interest in Clover Health, the health-insurance provider backed by Chamath Palihapitiya. The stock – which plummeted earlier this year following a report from short-seller Hindenberg Research accusing the company of misleading investors, customers, and the federal government – remained the top-hyped name on Reddit. The stock was also trending on Twitter.
Auto retailer CarLotz and electric vehicle-maker Workhorse bolstered gains from Tuesday, rising as much as 10% and 18%, respectively, thanks to their new status as meme stocks among Reddit investors. Meanwhile, electric-vehicle manufacturer Canoo whipsawed after rallying the day prior.
As for Wendy’s, the fast-food restaurant struggled to replicate the previous day’s rally as it dropped as much as 7% after the market opened. The stock on Tuesday ended at its highest level in nearly two decades, at $28.87, higher by almost 26%.
For Wendy’s, the word “tendy” was the most mentioned in posts about the company – a reference to both chicken nuggets on the menu and Reddit lingo that equates “tendies” with returns on investment.
Meanwhile, meme stock classics AMC Entertainment and BlackBerry, which have remained steady this week after massive gains last week, dropped. The movie-theater chain fell as much as 12%, while BlackBerry dropped 9%. GameStop, this year’s original meme stock, saw a modest rise.
Narrator: This is a No. 3 from McDonald’s: a burger, fries, and a drink. It costs $11 in New York City.
Fast food is supposed to be cheap and convenient, but do you ever find yourself spending more on fast food than you expected to?
You’re not alone. According to one study, Americans spend about $1,200 on fast food every year. Places like McDonald’s and Burger King do everything in their power to get you to spend more money, and it turns out fast food isn’t as cheap as you think.
1. The menus.
Fast food is all about the deals. Value meals, combos, coupons – oh my. But the seemingly simple menu actually hides most of the options. Compare a fast-food menu to a fine-dining-restaurant menu. The restaurant menu is simple and not very stimulating, but the fast-food menu is a noisy mess of options and categories, and fast-food restaurants grab your attention with bright reds or oranges along with big appetizing photos of their food. There’s a hierarchy. The pictures are big, but the prices are small. They keep your attention on the items that cost more by showing these really big on the left side where you start reading. You’re not wondering if that burger is worth $6, you’re just looking at those big juicy patties.
Hans Taparia: Food pictures, they light up the brain, you know, particularly when you’re hungry. Large food pictures for a food company are key.
Narrator: That’s Hans Taparia. He’s a health-food entrepreneur and a professor of business and society at NYU.
Hans Taparia: The playbook has been around for a while, I would say since the ’80s, which has been centered on simplicity, cheap, and bold and bright.
2. The pricing format and dollar menu.
Narrator: Fast-food restaurants use other tricks too, like not showing a dollar sign or using a 9.79 or 0.89 pricing format. Pretty much $10, but you still think it’s $9 because you read left to right. But what about the dollar menu, right? Well, dollar and value menus do exist, but they’re often small and far off to one corner where they are harder to see.
Hans Taparia: And if you buy multiple items off the value menu, it won’t necessarily be cheaper than a Happy Meal. So it’s not necessarily less profitable for them, but it accomplishes two things. It keeps the consumer coming, and it’s catering to a consumer that is increasingly poorer in the case of these conventional fast-food outlets.
3. The combo.
Narrator: And even though fast-food menus are big, their confusing layouts make it difficult to find exactly what you’re looking for. It’s easiest to read the menu when you’re close to the counter. But then it’s time to order. The pressure is mounting, and you just pick that big, bright, juicy No. 3, and that No. 3 is where the real secret of the menu lies: the combo. The star of the menu is the combo meal. You can order an entree, a side, and a drink just by saying one easy number. It takes a lot less time to order the No. 6 than a 10-piece nugget, medium fry, and a medium drink, but have you actually done the math to see if that combo is saving you any money? Take McDonald’s. If you buy a No. 3, it costs $10.39, but if you were to buy the Double Quarter Pounder, medium fry, and medium drink, it costs $10.48. You’re only saving 9 cents, and often you’ll end up with things you didn’t even want in portions that are way bigger than what’s healthy.
Hans Taparia: And creating this perception, which is quite real actually, that the per-ounce cost of something bigger is lower, and so I’m just getting better value for my money, forget the fact that I’m buying 32 ounces of soda, which has half a cup of sugar.
Narrator: The convenience of ordering a preselected meal gives fast-food restaurants control over what you order. Combine this with multiple size options and cheap upgrades, and it’s hard to walk away with a small in every category.
When was the last time you went to a place like Taco Bell and just bought one taco? Fast-food restaurants make more money from customers buying multiple items. Items like soda have a much higher profit margin compared to burgers, so fast-food companies do everything they can to get you to buy a drink.
5. What you want, when you want it.
They’ve added things like 24-hour locations and all-day breakfast to make sure you can get whatever you want whenever you want it. If you think you have more control at an ordering kiosk, you’re wrong. According to McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook, customers spend more on average at kiosks because they linger longer. Guess what those kiosks also have. Lots and lots of pictures. And that’s just the tip of the, um, Frosty.
6. Free food.
Fast-food companies are experts at getting customers in the door. They advertise the most outrageous deals on signs, posters, and TV commercials. They can get you in the door for some “buy one, get one free” nuggets, you’ll probably buy a drink too. Oh, look! You can make that a meal and add fries for just a dollar more. Companies also use brand tie-ins like Doritos Locos Tacos and coupons that expire in a week, like the ones you may have seen on the bottom of your receipt, not to mention app reward points or special daily deals found only in the app, just like the old-fashioned punch card. You’ll eat at a restaurant more often if each purchase brings you closer to free food.
Hans Taparia: Any one thing in isolation itself may not have a huge impact. The power of marketing is when you overlay things.
Narrator: But there’s a deeper issue here. Fast food isn’t as cheap as it used to be. According to Bloomberg, the average price of a fast-food burger has increased by 54% in the past decade, outpacing fast-casual and fine-dining restaurants. But fast food is sometimes the only option in low-income food deserts, and your environment has a big impact on your health and weight.
7. The more affordable option?
Healthy fast-casual offerings are often so much more expensive than fast food that they no longer target the same demographic, especially if you’re feeding a family. KFC will give you a lot more food per dollar than an organic-salad chain. Fast-food restaurants are able to lure consumers into spending more money on large unhealthy portions because it’s more affordable than healthier options.
Fast food can be cheap and convenient, but you have to fight off all the psychological tricks that are engineered to get you to spend more money. You shouldn’t be paying a premium for low-quality unhealthy food.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published in March 2019.
Fast food brands have been competing in the red-hot chicken sandwich segment since August 2019, when Popeyes introduced a fried chicken sandwich. Online spats and snarky tweets quickly created a rivalry between Popeyes and Chick-fil-A in the months since.
But despite the ongoing competition between the two top chicken sandwich chains, Chick-fil-A has been the nearly undisputed winner in online orders for nearly two years. The chain’s streak was only broken briefly in January 2020, when Popeyes overtook it in market share, according to data from Edison Trends.
In December 2020, the most recent month Edison has data for, Chick-fil-A was the clear winner with 45% of online order market share. Popeyes was a distant second with 17%, only barely beating McDonald’s 16%.
The top four restaurants, Chick-fil-A, Popeyes, McDonald’s, and Wendy’s, have all maintained their rankings since February 2020, but the introduction of several new chicken sandwich menu items has the potential to shake up the market in 2021.
The chicken sandwich fast food space is already crowded and growing, but there seems to be an appetite among consumers. Online spending on chicken sandwiches grew 420% between January 2019 and December 2020, according to Edison Trends.
Insider has reported that several chains gearing up to introduce competitors to Chick-fil-A and Popeyes, both of which sell crispy chicken sandwiches with pickles. In January, KFC introduced a crispy chicken sandwich at nine locations, available across the country by the end of February, and Jimmy John’s dropped its own version of the chicken sandwich in a Super Bowl ad.Burger King announced a new chicken sandwich coming later this year, and McDonald’s is bringing its own entry this month. Shake Shack is launching a limited-edition chicken sandwich collab in Houston, and even Taco Bell announced a chicken sandwich taco coming later this year.
Kevin Reilly: Fast food is cheap and convenient. But hidden in between the burgers and tacos are some “healthy” options: salads, grilled chicken, yogurts, oatmeal, power burritos. Doesn’t sound too bad, right? I spent a week eating nothing but these “healthy” fast foods and I lost six-and-a-half pounds. But even though I lost about a pound a day, it didn’t really go well.
I live in New York City, a place with every possible food you could want. Eating healthy here, it’s a breeze. But across America, there are more than 200,000 fast food joints, and they’re bringing in more than $200 billion a year in sales. And no matter where you go, you’re never far from a place like McDonald’s or Taco Bell. But in recent years, consumers want better, healthier choices, and the traditional fast food places have been losing customers to those fast casual healthy options.
The rules were pretty simple: Eat every major meal at a national fast-food chain and stick to the healthy options. McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, Taco Bell, Dunkin’ Donuts, Subway, and Chick-fil-A; nothing but them for a week. Yeah, I lost almost seven pounds, but let’s take a close look at the numbers.
On a normal day, I’m eating around 2,500 calories. An adult man should be having about 2,400 to 2,600 calories a day. But on this fast food plan, my calories plummeted. Most of these meals came in under 400 calories, and that was one of my first problems. I’d eat and just a couple hours later, I was starving. And I had days when I didn’t eat more than 1,000 calories.
Now, some of these meals were really good. My favorite was this grilled chicken market salad from Chick-fil-A. It had blueberries, strawberries, apples; it was delicious and it was actually healthy. However, a lot of the other salads from Burger King, McDonald’s, and Wendy’s were loaded with salt, often more than 50% of what I needed for the entire day, from a salad. In fact, excess salt was a problem the entire week. I thought I had hit the jackpot with Taco Bell’s al Fresco menu. They take off all the cheese and mayo-based sauces and replace it with lettuce and pico de gallo. One night I got tacos, another night I got a power cantina burrito, and these were meals with more protein than usual. So, I felt like I was getting enough food. They were good, too good. It was all salt. In fact, just one burrito had almost as much salt as I needed in just one day. The American Heart Association says we should limit our sodium to about 2,300 milligrams a day, but the ideal is closer to 1,500 milligrams a day, especially for a person like me with high blood pressure. But if you look at my sodium intake, it was high every day, yet I was barely getting the calories I needed. If I wanted to keep the sodium down, I was starving. If I wanted to feel full, salt through the roof. You see, that’s an issue in the fast food industry. Wendy’s even acknowledges on their website that there’s going to be a trade-off between salt and flavor.
It was weird. I didn’t feel healthy at all throughout the week, even though I was eating healthy foods and losing weight. And on the last day, I had this massive headache that was just infuriating. These places, they’re supposed to be tasty, cheap, and convenient. But it wasn’t cheap. Every healthy option was expensive, but left me hungry. For eight grilled nuggets and this tiny kale salad at Chick-fil-A, $12. For the power Mediterranean salad at Wendy’s, it was almost $8, yet I could get a cheeseburger, nuggets, fries, and a soda for only $4. That brings me to another problem. Walk into McDonald’s and you get hit with that sweet, sweet french fry smell, and I had to get a salad.
Would I recommend this to anyone? Nope, unless you’re stuck on the road with no other options. Though there was a bright spot: breakfast at Subway. They have these egg-white-and-cheese sandwiches, which I got covered in spinach and peppers. And let me tell you, it was good. But after all this, I just want a cheeseburger.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published in May 2018.
Here are all the fast-food releases customers have loved in 2020, so far.
Jack in the Box brought back its fan-favorite Tiny Tacos in January.
Arguably one of the chain’s most famous menu items, Jack in the Box delighted fans when it announced Tiny Tacos would make their return to menus nationwide in January. QSR Magazine called the Tiny Taco’s return “highly-anticipated” and referred to the item as a “fan-favorite.”
A miniature version of the chain’s regular tacos, Tiny Tacos can be ordered plain or “loaded” with cheese sauce, shredded lettuce, and Jack in the Box’s taco sauce.
In February, KFC launched its polarizing fried chicken and donuts sandwich nationwide.
After testing out the calorie-packed creation in select cities back in 2019, KFC launched its donut fried chicken sandwich nationwide earlier this year. Though only available for a limited time, the sandwiches quickly captured the attention of fast-food lovers nationwide.
Described as “viral” and “controversial” by Business Insider, the overall consensus of our team of taste testers was that “although the chicken-and-doughnuts combo tasted like sweet, artery-clogging death, it was also the most delicious new item that KFC has come out with in a long time.”
Taco Bell released a new Grilled Cheese Burrito in July.
Reactions on Twitter to the menu item are also overwhelmingly positive, with one user calling it “the best burrito ever,” while another said, “I have an insatiable hunger that can only be satisfied by Taco Bell grilled cheese burrito.”
It’s easy to see why the new menu item has become a fan favorite — the cheesy burrito only costs $2.99.
McDonald’s brought out a spicy version of its iconic chicken McNuggets in September, to much fanfare.
The new limited-time-only menu item was thought to be in response to the flourishing market for fast-food chicken products, as well as the smash success of Wendy’s spicy chicken nuggets.
“We’re thrilled with the positive response to these limited-time offerings,” McDonald’s said in a statement. “If our customers truly can’t get enough, there’s always a chance we’ll bring limited-time menu items back in the future.”
McDonald’s and Travis Scott’s “Cactus Jack” meal collaboration broke the internet after its release in early September.
The “Cactus Jack” meal includes a Quarter Pounder with cheese, bacon, and lettuce, plus a medium fry with barbecue sauce, and a Sprite with extra ice for $6. Fans went wild for the meal, as well as the musician’s line of McDonald’s-themed merchandise.
“It’s been so lit, some of our restaurants have temporarily sold out of some of the ingredients in the meal,” McDonald’s said. “We’re working closely with our suppliers, distributors, and franchisees to resupply impacted restaurants as quickly as possible.”
Shake Shack’s Hot Chick’n sandwich was released in September.
Following the smash success of Popeyes’ chicken sandwich last year, many chains released new iterations of their own this year.
After three years of Shake Shack fans asking the chain to bring back its Hot Chick’n sandwich, the New York-based chain finally delivered. On September 1, 2020, Shake Shack announced it would be bringing back its spicy sandwich in either hot, extra hot, or fire, plus hot chicken bites and hot and spicy cheese fries.
“Like with the Shack burger, a major factor is the potato bun. There may be breads on this earth just as good, but there are few that are better. The sandwich comes with a slaw that neither subtracts nor adds too much for me,” wrote TC Fleming of the Dallas Observer. “The full picture does add up to an enticing item we should all be glad to welcome back.”
Grubstreet and the Washington Post both reviewed the hot chicken sandwich favorably, although both outlets said the spice level could have been kicked up a notch to truly live up to its name.
Also in September, Whataburger released a limited-time-only spicy chicken sandwich.
After its release on September 29, 2020, fans of regional chain Whataburger were quick to shout out the new limited-time-only spicy chicken sandwich.
Shelby Stuart, a writer for Chron, wrote, “Because of its impeccable spice and heat, I think the sandwich can compete for the top spot among fast spicy chicken sandwiches, right up there next to Popeyes’ famed offering. All other food chains and their spicy sandwiches are sub-par — and maybe this is the Texan in me, but what Whataburger has done puts everyone else to shame.”
People on Twitter also praised the new menu item, with one user calling it “a better spicy chicken sandwich than @PopeyesChicken” and another saying, “Now this is a GREAT Spicy Chicken Sandwich. Others need to take note how this thing taste! Spicy, flavorful wonderful. Hope they make it permanent.”
Chick-fil-A began testing a brand new chicken sandwich – the Honey Pepper Pimento Chicken Sandwich – in September, as well.
Chick-fil-A, which only offers a regular chicken sandwich, a deluxe version, and a spicy version, delighted fans with the release of its Honey Pepper Pimento Chicken Sandwich in select markets in South Carolina and Asheville, North Carolina.
While the menu item has yet to be expanded to other states, some online reviewers managed to get their hands on the new offering.
YouTube reviewer PapiEats was a big fan of the new sandwich and said the pimento was perfectly spicy and that the sandwich had “tasty jalapenos.”
The following month, Wendy’s dropped its own spicy chicken sandwich.
In an age where seemingly every chain is dropping a new fried chicken sandwich, Wendy’s also threw its hat into the ring this year. A different variation on the chain’s original spicy chicken sandwich, the spicy crispy chicken nixed the tomatoes and added a layer of mayonnaise to a crispy chicken patty.
While the sandwich didn’t make as many waves as the Popeyes chicken sandwich last year or even the multiple new sandwiches this year, Wendy’s still held its own among a lengthy list of new releases this year that simply went unnoticed.
According to data from Google Trends, searches for Wendy’s spicy chicken sandwiches increased after the new version was released.
Following the huge success of McDonald’s Travis Scott meal in September, the chain launched another celebrity collaboration with J Balvin in October.
Available through November 1, J Balvin’s McDonald’s meal included a few classic favorites — a Big Mac with no pickles, a medium fry, an Oreo McFlurry, and ketchup. For customers who ordered the J Balvin meal through the McDonald’s app, they would get the Oreo McFlurry for free.
While some fans were left puzzled by the meal’s simplicity and the choice to remove pickles from the chain’s iconic Big Mac, it created quite a buzz online regardless, with hundreds of tweets talking about it.
In October, everyone was talking about Dunkin’s Spicy Ghost Pepper donut.
However, while the internet was buzzing about the donut — Dunkin’s tweet announcing the new item got over 800 likes and 500 quote tweets — actual reactions were mixed. Some were initially scared by the donut’s spicy appearance, yet in reality, many found the donut mostly sweet with a slight kick, rather than a hot, eye-watering experience.
“I can’t believe it’s happening,” Matt, who runs McRibGate, a website dedicated to McRib lovers with the aim of getting McDonald’s to bring the item back, told Business Insider.
Customers on social media immediately went to social media to share photos of them in line to get their McRibs. However, Insider found that the McRib we tried, though still tasty, was a little under-sauced.
Jack in the Box’s new chicken sandwich lineup consists of the Cluck Sandwich and the Cluck Deluxe Sandwich.
The Cluck Sandwich comes with a crispy chicken fillet, pickles, and a mystery sauce, all held together with a brioche bun.
The deluxe version has the same bun and chicken combination, with the added bonus of mayonnaise, lettuce, tomato, guacamole, hickory smoked bacon, and cheddar cheese. According to Jack in the Box, these extra ingredients are a “classic hit with consumers.”
Jack in the Box has also partnered with singer and actress Becky G for a social media #JacksNewChickenDance campaign to help launch the new chicken sandwich lineup.
The Cluck Sandwich is $4.99, while the Cluck Deluxe is $6.99. Both can be upgraded to the combo version for an additional $1.
Fast-food franchisees amassed more than $1 billion in federal aid through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), The Counter reported.
The PPP was created in the spring to help small businesses continue to pay employees as the COVID-19 pandemic led to widespread layoffs, with loans that could be forgiven under certain circumstances. The Counter’s analysis of loans over $3 million found that the largest loans to fast food and fast-casual restaurants went to companies that owned multiple franchises.
A Taco Bell franchisee in Minnesota, a Wendy’s franchisee in Texas, and a McDonald’s franchisee in Florida were all recipients of the maximum $10 million in aid, The Counter found. Not all franchisees are exactly small businesses, either. One PPP recipient was a group that owned more than 200 Pizza Hut locations across California.
Over half of the $552 billion in PPP funds went to just 5% of recipients, the Treasury Department found, and $30 billion of the funding went to restaurants. Chain restaurants became eligible for PPP loans through a loophole lobbied for by the National Restaurant Association: they were eligible as long as fewer than 500 people were employed at any one location.
“As small business owners, the nearly 2,000 independent franchisees who own and operate McDonald’s restaurants across the country have been proud to continue to serve communities, first responders, and frontline workers while providing meaningful employment to more than 800,000 individuals during this incredibly challenging time,” McDonald’s USA told Business Insider in an emailed statement. “As the law intended, independent small business owner franchisees were able to use PPP loans to support payroll for the continued employment of their local employees and minimize economic impact to the communities that have always been there for them,”
Wendy’s, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Fast-food chains were only one of the controversial recipients of PPP loans. Business Insider found several other beneficiaries that raised some eyebrows, including Burning Man, the Ayn Rand Institute, and the national Girl Scouts of America.