Shake Shack is an American fast casual food chain that adapts each restaurant to the local community it serves, offering an alternative to the more
typical cookie-cutter approach of fast food restaurant expansion.
“Two items hang on my wall,” Randy Garutti, Shake Shack’s Chief Executive Officer told Forbes. “Danny’s (Shake Shack’s co-founder) back-of-the-napkin sketch, and a sign that says, ’The bigger we get, the smaller we need to act.’ (1) One of Shake Shack’s key differences in challenging the global giants of fast food lies in a commitment to creating unique and localised restaurant experiences. From its modest beginnings as a single hot dog cart inside Madison Square Park in 2001, Shake Shack has now grown to operate in more than 249 locations, including Seoul, Tokyo and London; in 2018 it hit revenues of US$459m.
The big idea: Localised menus and design.
Shake Shack customises the experience of each new restaurant
to reflect its neighbourhood, combining local design and murals, partnerships with community artists and businesses, and tailored menus for local tastes.
Opening its first restaurant in Shanghai in 2019, Shake Shack launched its Strawberry Yu(zu) Garden shake made from yuzu fruit juice, matcha green tea and strawberry sauce in an exclusive for China’s largest city. In London, Shake Shack partnered with local artisan cheese suppliers Neal’s Yard Dairy to create The Yard Burger, made from Aberdeen Angus beef, British free range Wiltshire smoked bacon and topped with Neal’s Yard’s Hafod Cheddar cheese. London-based Crosstown Doughnuts collaborated with Shake Shack on an ice cream doughnut, and the East London Liquor Co. joined forces in producing Shack’s Gin Lemonade.
Shake Shack champions the spirit of local in its home market, too.
Its first restaurant in Seattle features a mural installation by local
artist Jesse Brown, whilst the tabletops in its restaurants in New York are made by a Brooklyn-based furniture company from reclaimed bowling alley wood.
Through carefully working through each localisation, Shake Shack
has continued to amplify a difference that helps set them apart from their much larger global competitors. It is one of the key ways they continue to act small, the bigger they get.
1. The Secret Sauce of Shake Shack’s Success, Forbes, 27 January 2014