New York sensation Shake Shack, one of the defining fast-casual chains of the modern era, finally opened its first Seattle burger restaurant last week to predictably long lines. Now that the first Shackburgers, crinkle-cut fries, and Montlake Double Cuts — Shake Shack’s first-ever all-local burger, from the Macrina Bakery brioche bun to Washington-raised meat to Beecher’s cheese — have hit the streets, here are five further things to know about Seattle’s Shake Shack mania:
1) The opening has been messy. Those hours-long lines at 2115 Westlake Ave. in Denny Triangle aren’t just because of high demand — even a worldwide chain can stumble out of the gate. The Seattle restaurant relies almost entirely on cashless kiosks — but two out of three of those kiosks were out of order last Friday, according to tweets from one customer. Buzzers allegedly weren’t working, either. And strangest of all, despite having people type their names (instead of saying them for a server to write down, which leads to some of Starbucks’ most infamous problems), Shake Shack shortens names on its order tickets to the first four letters, which means a name like Megan gets called out incorrectly as “Mega.” That can’t end well.
2) The awkwardness of the space is allegedly a feature, not a bug. CEO Randy Garutti — a former general manager at Seattle icon Canlis — said in a recent interview that Shake Shack actually appreciates that its new standalone building, a rarity in the booming Amazonia area, is complicated. “It is too small; it is really hard to flow through it and we love that. That is the kind of quirky specialness we are willing to do when we find a building and a place that we think can become a community gathering place.” That’s sounds first and foremost like a bit of marketing spin, but avoiding a cookie-cutter feel could certainly help the company tap into local pride.
3) Mobile ordering is a major Shake Shack goal. One subtext of Garutti’s comments about embracing the “quirky specialness” of the space is surely that Shake Shack wants customers to embrace its mobile app. As the company continues to cut back on human interactions for greater efficiency, it clearly expects the city’s tech-savvy populace to order ahead and schedule specific pick-up times instead of standing in long lines just to type in those orders at a kiosk.
4) The Eastside should get a Shake Shack expansion — eventually. Garutti said vaguely, “We’ve got our eyes on any place where we believe there could be a great community,” but more specifically, “We’ll look on the Eastside at some point.” But he’s in no rush: He points out it took five years to build the second Shake Shack, while the company looked in Seattle for almost four years before committing, and has searched to no avail in San Francisco for six years already.
5) Shake Shack won’t be replacing Dick’s Drive-In. In fact, Garutti’s a staunch supporter of the classic Seattle burger chain himself: “I’ll be going to Dick’s right when I get off the plane, and I always will.”
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- Watch Stephen Colbert Poke Fun at Starbucks’ Name Game [E]
- Starbucks Fires Barista Who Mocked Customer With a Stutter [E]
- Exclusive: Shake Shack CEO Dishes on Plans for the Seattle Sarket [Puget Sound Business Journal]
- Shake Shack Rolls Out Mobile Ordering Across the U.S. [E]