On a recent episode of the Serious Eats podcast Special Sauce, Ed Levine talks to Danny Meyer about the origins of the Shake Shack.
Did Meyer have any idea that that hot dog cart would eventually become the massive sensation it is today? Not at all. It was a happy accident, born of his love of burgers, Chicago hot dogs, and the custard that’s still served at Ted Drewes in his native St. Louis.
From The Message is Medium Rare, an appreciation of the ShackBurger, “a straightforward, honest-to-goodness burger”. It includes a review of the typography used by the restaurant:
These three typefaces artfully express the ethos of both the burger and the brand. Neutraface is the bun: sturdy, reliable and architectural. Futura is the patty: basic but bold. Galaxie is the lettuce: wavy, quirky and fresh. To the layperson this comparison may seem like a stretch, but designers know they are purposefully expressive.
The food is fresh. Natural. Locally sourced. Sometimes even organic. That might sound like your local farmer’s market, but it’s actually part of a new and growing movement in the fast-food industry. Think Shake Shack, Chipotle, Panera. While we’re not exactly seeing tractors in the drive-thrus, the rise of these chains (and the pressure on their predecessors that placed a lot more emphasis on the fast than the food) tell us a lot about economic inequality, the modern workday, and fries. From The New Yorker’s James Surowiecki: The Shake Shack Economy.
Dang! It looks as though the Shake Shack is gonna IPO at a value of $1 billion. (BTW, $1 billion would buy you about 210 million ShackBurgers.)
At that level, Shake Shack would debut at 50 times projected earnings of about $20 million this year, the people said, asking not to be named because the details are private. The company has tapped JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Morgan Stanley to manage the share sale, said the people.
That valuation would put it in line with other dining chains that have tapped into investor appetite for new stocks in recent years. El Pollo Loco Holdings Inc. (LOCO), which raised $123 million in July, now trades at about 60 times projected 2014 earnings, while Potbelly (PBPB) Corp. trades at over 64 times estimated earnings, data compiled by Bloomberg show.
The Shack has about 50 locations worldwide. But their flagship Madison Square Park location will be closing for a few months soon for renovations…hopefully they’ll have it back open for the IPO.
Update: And the Shack filed for their IPO on Dec 29, 2014.
Shake Shack is a modern day “roadside” burger stand serving a classic American menu of premium burgers, hot dogs, crinkle-cut fries, shakes, frozen custard, beer and wine. Founded by Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group, LLC (“USHG”), Shake Shack was created leveraging USHG’s expertise in community building, hospitality, fine dining, restaurant operations and sourcing premium ingredients. Danny’s vision of Enlightened Hospitality guided the creation of the unique Shake Shack culture that, we believe, creates a differentiated experience for our guests across all demographics at each of the 63 Shacks around the world. As Shake Shack’s Board Chairman and USHG’s Chief Executive Officer, Danny has drawn from USHG’s experience creating and operating some of New York City’s most acclaimed and popular restaurants, including Union Square Cafe, Gramercy Tavern, Blue Smoke, The Modern, Maialino and Marta, to build what we believe is a new fine casual restaurant category in Shake Shack.
There are now 63 Shake Shacks. 63! I just wish the one across from the office would reopen. (via @caseyjohnston)
Update: From Tyler Cowen, Does the Shake Shack IPO mean you should stop eating there?:
A simple theory of IPOs suggests that they arrive when a product or company is experiencing “peak buzz,” or at least when the insiders in the privately held company think they are at or near peak buzz. This will maximize the expected returns on the IPO when it comes to market.
When it comes to food, peak buzz usually arrives a wee bit after peak quality, given reputational lags. So if you are seeing peak buzz, it is probably time to bail on the restaurant, at least on a restaurant which is going to be sold. Bailing on the restaurant may in fact be slightly overdue.
To test Cowen’s theory1, I went to the Shake Shack in Grand Central today (12/31/14). I stood in line for 10 minutes, ordered my customary Shack burger with fries (long live the crinkle cut), and then waited an additional 10 minutes for my food. Verdict: as delicious as ever. Service was snappy and friendly. Well worth the wait and price for me: I got exactly what I wanted.
2004 was a pretty good year for the NYC food scene. Among the openings were The Spotted Pig, Per Se, Momofuku Noodle Bar, and Shake Shack.
If there was a movement taking shape, its key players admit they didn’t notice until after the fact. And many of them spent the year struggling. Mr. Chang was desperate for customers in the early days at Noodle Bar, and kicking himself for having failed to apply for a kitchen job at Per Se or Masa. “I remember thinking very clearly, ‘What am I doing?’ ” he said. ” ‘This is stupid. I should be working at Masa!’ “
In some cases, 2004 was an outright fight. At the Spotted Pig, Mr. Friedman and Ms. Bloomfield, who had arrived from England, envisioned the vibrant boite as “a really cool bar that happened to have food as good as any restaurant in town,” Mr. Friedman said. “Who made the rule that you can’t have a real chef instead of someone who defrosts the frozen French fries?”
People waiting in line for food in the Soviet Union in the late 1980s:
The opening day line for the newest outpost of the Shake Shack in Moscow:
That’s nothing, though, compared to the line to get into the first McDonald’s in the Soviet Union, which opened in Moscow in 1990.
A year later in Moscow, an estimated 1.6 million people turned out to see Metallica in concert. Look at all those people:
Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality is opening two Shake Shacks and a Blue Smoke in Delta’s new Terminal 4 at JFK airport.
The Shake Shack gets a lukewarm one-star review from Pete Wells at the NY Times…the main problem was consistency.
How the burger could change lives I never divined, but on occasion it was magnificent, as beefy and flavorful as the outer quarter-inch of a Peter Luger porterhouse.
More often, though, the meat was cooked to the color of wet newsprint, inside and out, and salted so meekly that eating it was as satisfying as hearing a friend talk about a burger his cousin ate.
Even when the burgers were great, they could be great in one of two distinct ways. In the classic Shake Shack patty, a tower of ground beef is flattened against a searing griddle with a metal press and made to stay there, spitting and hissing, until one surface turns all brown and crunchy. A patty handled this way takes command of a Shackburger, standing up to its tangy sauce, its crisp lettuce, its wheels of plum tomato.
Sometimes, though, the grill cook hadn’t had the energy needed for smashing and searing. Instead the patty was tall, soft and melting, so pink inside that its juices began to soak the bun at the first bite. Good as this version was, it was anomalous.
The Shack Burger is still my favorite hamburger and sitting in Madison Square Park eating one on a warm night with friends — hell, even waiting in line for 45 minutes catching up — is one of my favorite NYC activities.
In a somewhat flawed test — e.g. part of the In-N-Out burger package was confiscated by airport security — the Shake Shack beat Five Guys and In-N-Out in a Serious Eats taste test.
Clearly the In-N-Out burgers making their trans-continental trip by plane would be at a disadvantage to the made-fresh-in-the-same-city burgers from Five Guys and Shake Shack, so in order to compensate for this, we made the decision to handicap all three burgers by the same amount. After a careful synchronization of watches, burgers were ordered from their respective establishments at precisely 1 a.m. Greenwich Mean Time (that’s 9 p.m. EST, 6 p.m. Pacific) and not tasted until the following morning.
I used to be a big In-N-Out fan (their burger is still a great fast food burger), but the slightly more upscale Shack Burger is my favorite burger in the whole wide world…it is indeed, as the article states, “a marvel of beefy engineering”.
The Shake Shack is turning into Danny Meyer’s accidental fast food empire.
“A hamburger stand is a very democratizing amenity,” he said. “We hope that each new Shake Shack can become both a citizen of, and mirror of, their communities.”
With a bit of research and social engineering, an enterprising burger enthusiast has figured out the recipe for the infamous Shake Shack burger.
Exclamation point interlude: !!!!!!!!!!!!!
Upon tasting it, my immediate thoughts are mayo, ketchup, a little yellow mustard, a hint of garlic and paprika, perhaps a touch of cayenne pepper, and an elusive sour quality that I can’t quite pinpoint. It’s definitely not just vinegar or lemon juice, nor is does it have the cloying sweetness of relish. Pickle juice? Cornichon? Some other type of vinegar? I can’t figure it out. This was going to take a little more effort.
Totally doing this for dinner one of these nights. We’ll probably cheat on the ground beef…we’ve got some Pat LaFrieda patties stockpiled in the freezer.
Both Katz’s deli and Shake Shack have had “Z” malfunctions on their signs. Something in the NYC water?
Eater doesn’t come right out and say it (“note new equipment…”), but I think that when the Shake Shack opens for business on Wednesday, they’ll be distributing those light-up buzzer thingies that vibrate when your food is ready instead of having everyone mill around the window while employees yell things that sound like your name even though it’s not.
Update: Confirmed…the ShackWand will be in full effect. (And psst, rumor has it the Shack opens today, not Wed…)
Here it is, the awful truth. After sampling In-N-Out Burger twice this past weekend (a cheeseburger with raw onion and, 4 days later, a Double Double w/ no onions) and having had several Shack Burgers this year (my most recent one was a couple of weeks ago), an adequate comparison between the two can be made. The verdict?
The Shake Shack burger wins in a landslide. It’s more flavorful, features a better balance of ingredients, and a yummier bun. On the french fries front, In-N-Out’s fresh-cut fries get the nod.
Courtesy of Mena, something to keep in mind: a cheeseburger at In-N-Out is $1.85 while a similarly appointed Shack Burger is $4.38, almost 2.5 times as much. SS french fries are nearly twice the price of In-N-Out fries. The burger comparison is an unfair one because, despite its location and style, Shake Shack is a restaurant and In-N-Out is a fast food joint. That the burgers are even close enough to compare — and make no mistake, I still love the In-N-Out burger — says a great deal about In-N-Out.
I did some important investigatory journalism today: burgers at the Shake Shack on opening day. Journalism has never been so delicious.
The folks at Danny Meyer’s Shake Shack go above and beyond the call of duty. When a birthday party shows up after an erroneously posted closing time, the manager has food sent over for them from the kitchen at Eleven Madison Park. Amazing service.