“Better Burger” is one of the fastest growing segments in the fast food restaurant market. Five Guys has grown rapidly and now has over 1,000 locations, In-and Out Burger has close to 300 locations on the West Coast and Smashburger has over 200 locations. “Better Burgers” account for an estimated one-third of fast food burger sales. “Better Burger” restaurants provide upscale fast food that beats the chains on food quality and customer experience at reasonable prices.
On a recent trip to Connecticut, I had the opportunity to visit a Shake Shack restaurant, a growing burger chain headquartered in New York. I had read about Shake Shack and was interested to visit one of their 23 locations. Shake Shack is a modern-day burger stand that serves Black Angus Burgers, Vienna All-Beef Chicago Style Hot Dogs, and custard made from premium ice cream. They also serve beer and wine. Shake Shack’s burgers are 100% all-natural Angus Beef and contain no hormones or antibiotics. All burgers are ground fresh and sourced from local artisans. Shake Shack combines high quality classic food with a pleasant customer experience.
Shake Shack was a complete accident. Shake Shack started as a hot dog cart in Madison Square Park in Manhattan. It began when Danny Meyer and the Madison Square Park Conservancy decided to raise funds to help turn the park around. The cart was a success. The stand disposed of the notion that fast food had to be precooked or even prepared quickly in favor of quality ingredients and customer experience. The lines for the hot dogs soon became so long that New York City and the Union Square Hospitality Group, which operated the stand, decided to open a bigger facility at the same location in 2004.
The concept resonated with the local community. Soon there were long lines with more than an hour wait. In 2008, The Union Square Hospitality Group opened another location on New York’s Upper West Side and in 2009 at the New York Met’s new stadium, Citi Field. In 2009, the New York Times called Shake Shack the “anti-chain”. Each restaurant has a unique design that represents the local community. It is the opposite of the typical fast food chain which crams people into a cookie-cutter space to feed them as many unhealthy calories as possible – then get them to leave.
The Union Square Hospitality Group owns Shake Shack. Union Square Hospitality Group was founded by Danny Meyer and runs some of New York City’s most famous restaurants including Union Square Cafe, Gramercy Tavern and the North End Grill. Shake Shack’s management team honed it skills running upscale restaurants.
Shake Shack has taken the time to get the concept, brand and experience right before expanding. They focus on trying to do three things really well:
- Consistently deliver the highest quality, most delicious food
- Create a place where people love to come together in the neighborhood
- Offer great value
Their internal motto is “The bigger we get the smaller we need to act”. It will be interesting to see if Shake Shack can maintain a great customer experience as it expands.
Have you eaten at a Shake Shack?