Back of the House

Danny Meyer on Shake Shack 2.0

Yeah, keep looking, Mr. Guy With the Sunglasses.Photo: Shanna Ravindra
Shake Shack madness is upon us again, the beloved burger stand having opened early yesterday. But rather than fume at the lines or fetishize the burger, we decided to go to the source and ask Danny Meyer, its creator, what Shack 2.0 brings us.

You’ve introduced buzzing “Shake Wands.”
The one thing I’ve never enjoyed watching is the scrum that forms at the pickup line. It’s chaotic, and it separates people who should be together. A family wants to come and eat burgers, but one member has to hang around waiting for their food to come out. So that’s why we invested in these wands. The buzzer goes off when your food is done, so you can just hang out wherever you want to hang out.

How else is Shake Shack going to be different this year?
We’ve redone the entire line. We’ve really struggled with the fact that unlike a restaurant, where you can calculate what you have to cook by the size of the dining room, at the Shake Shack they just keep coming and coming. So how do you continue to cook at high quality? More griddle space. We added half as much, which means more hamburgers. And also, I can do something I’ve wanted since forever, which is to griddle the hot dogs instead of boiling them. We’ve upgraded the shake machines and a lot of the equipment, and 60 percent of our staff is back from last year, instead of the usual 10 percent. That’s going to be a very big difference. All in all, everything is going to be much smoother.

It seems pretty obvious that there should be more than one Shake Shack.
We’ve been thinking about that for four years. But I’ve never replicated any of my restaurants. I just continually look for ways to make each one better and better. I haven’t opened a new restaurant since 2004. I just want to keep getting more deeply into the ones I do have right now.

It must mystify you that you have all these three-star restaurants, and that the Shake Shack gets massive tidal waves of media coverage every year.
I’m happy to take that tidal wave, as long as people keep calling asking when we’re going to open. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this. Shake Shack is one of thousands of places where people can get burgers and shakes. The fact that there is so much attention has a lot more to do with what Shake Shack represents. I think that for a lot of people, including a lot of you in the media, the opening of the Shake Shack is like the opening of the baseball season. It’s not just about cheeseburgers and frozen custard; it’s about hope for the season to come.

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Danny Meyer on Shake Shack 2.0