May 3, 2017

Should Golden Corral move off Jeff Foxworthy?

In the summer of 2015, Golden Corral (GC) made a big bet by signing Jeff Foxworthy to an endorsement deal. The Raleigh-based buffet chain’s thinking made sense, Foxworthy, with his southern populist credentials was the perfect spokesperson for all-day grits and endless prime ribs.

But have national and social trends recently made it clear that it’s time for GC to move off Foxworthy?

The first red flag for the partnership is that GC’s audience is becoming less southern.

Golden Corral Demographics - South

The blue line above represents the percentage of GC customers based in the American South. Back in September of 2016, only 19 months ago, exactly half of all GC buyers lived in the South. Today, that number is down to 41.5%; this is a 17% decline.

Next, while we don’t want to generalize too broadly when it comes to politics, Foxworthy has, in the past, drawn fans from the southern GOP base. These folks enjoy the themes like gun ownership, family values, and anti-government intervention in his humor.

In this context, it should be concerning that GC’s customers are becoming more Democratic. Here’s the trend line over the last three years.

Lifestyle - Democrats for Golden Corral

At the beginning of this period, only 19.6% of GC’s audience was made up of Democrats. Today that number is 31.4%, an increase of 60.2%.

Lastly, and perhaps most concerning, is the fact that GC customer conversations around Jeff Foxworthy himself are down. In other words, interest in Foxworthy is declining with GC customers themselves. Also note the predominantly negative sentiment of those conversations in the red area at the bottom of the chart.

Jeff Foxworthy for Golden Corral

GC’s bet on Foxworthy made sense at the time. It was a Georgia-based chain speaking to a largely southern audience – so why not collaborate with one of the region’s most distinct personas? But, as the country diversifies at local and national levels, the partnership may have run its course.