What started in 2001 as a hot dog stand from a fine dining restaurant company in NYC is now a worldwide brand—that officially landed in Chicago yesterday after a two-year wait. CEO Randy Garutti, who says "we're pinching ourselves," chatted about the timing and location in Chicago, and what makes Shake Shack stand out from other burger places.
What made you think it was the right time to come to Chicago?
I think Chicago is one of the greatest cities in the world and we see the world as a collection of great cities. What (Shake Shack's) always been from the beginning is a community gathering place and when we look around the world we think, "where do people want to gather? What cities have that culture?" We set our eyes on Chicago a couple years ago and saw this site, and we literally signed a lease a year, year-and-a-half later. It took us forever to just get in and now we're here.
What made you think this location was the best site for the first one here?
The original shack was trying to turn fast food on its head. What fast food ruined in the world is cheap food, bad quality and (to) get you in and out as soon as possible for as cheap as possible. When we found this spot at Ohio and Rush, you just can't argue with the fact that people from Chicago and around the world walk by this block. Shake Shack is truly the most democratic experience.
What can Chicagoans expect from Shake Shack that's different from other new burger places that have come to Chicago?
The most important thing to say is we didn't invent the burger nor will we be the last guys in the world to create a burger. It's not about that. Shake Shack takes what all of us knew a generation ago of what was a great roadside burger stand and asks the question, "whoever wrote the rule that it needs to act that way?" And that's what we do. Day after day we try to create a very simple, classic, value offering and it has created an experience that is resonating with people.
Do you have a goal for how many Shake Shacks you want to open in Chicago?
Our only is goal is to serve one burger at a time and make it great, and if that leads to more opportunities we're going to be very excited to take it. But we don't come in and say "hey, we're going to have all these locations." That's not who we are. That said, we are working (on another location in the) Chicago Athletic Association Hotel (on Michigan Avenue). And that was totally unplanned. It's going to look totally unlike anything we've ever done. Past that, we'll see.
Introduce Shake Shack to Chicago.
Shake Shack is birthed from a fine dining company of 29 years in New York City that built one-of-a-kind restaurants. It was an accident; it was never meant to happen this way. We do it one shake, one burger, one crinkle cut fry at a time.