The Connection Between Grease And Shake Shack

In 2001, an at-first-glance unassuming hot dog cart parked in New York City's Madison Square Park took the city's lunch-goers by storm. At the time, the city was looking for ways to revitalize the then-downtrodden Madison Square Park, and they decided that a hot dog stand was the way to do it. But this was no ordinary hot dog stand.

Restaurateur and founder of the Union Square Hospitality Group, Danny Meyer was a charter member of the revitalization effort, opening the cart as part of a public art installation launched by the Madison Square Park Conservancy. The conservancy's efforts were to refurbish the park, according to Pentagram. The hot dog cart was part of the art exhibit, "I love Taxis" by Thai artist Navin Rawanchaikul.

Once the cart opened, it wasn't long before New Yorkers were lining up in droves, sometimes even waiting for hours just to place their order. Thanks to its high-quality, Midwest-inspired fare, it caught the attention of New York City diners. Having a catchy name probably didn't hurt either. However, it turns out, Shake Shack might have been called something else entirely.

Shake Shack's name was inspired by the movie Grease

The iconic movie "Grease" actually inspired the now-famous Shake Shack name. Fortune (via Mental Floss) reported that founder Danny Meyer was inspired by the ending of the classic 1978 musical. The two protagonists — goody-two-shoes Sandy and bad-boy greaser Danny — spend the film grappling with their feelings for each other despite their obvious differences. Finally, at the end of the movie — spoiler alert ahead — Danny and Sandy get together at a school carnival, where they ride an amusement park ride called the "Shake Shack" while singing their famous duet, "You're the One That I Want." Meyer, who was a big fan of the movie and had watched the scene many times, eventually took the name of the ride and applied it to his famous restaurant.

However, the name Shake Shack was far from the only contender when it first started. According to the Motley Fool, Meyer also considered a number of other names, including Custard's First Stand, Dog Run, Custard Park, Madison Mixer, and the remarkably unappetizing Parking Lot. Custard's First Stand was the initial front runner, although Meyer later admitted that particular name was "pretty bad," according to the New York Times. Meyer decided to go with his "Grease"-inspired gut, and the name Shake Shack stuck.

There are now over 360 Shake Shack locations worldwide

Now, after more than 20 years, it would seem odd to think of Shake Shack being called anything else. Many of its popular menu items, including the Smoke Shack, Shack Stack, and the famous original ShackBurger, are taken directly from the chain's name (via Shake Shack). Today, there are over 360 Shake Shack locations around the world in 83 countries, according to Zippia. However, Meyer actually never intended for Shake Shack to become a chain.

However, the success was undeniable, and he opened up a second location in New York City's Upper West Side, with many more to follow. But in keeping with the spirit of local restaurants, they customize the menu to incorporate local food purveyors in each city where they open a new location, according to the Motley Fool. For example, the Shake Shack in Dallas carries a Link Burger, which is topped with local barbecue restaurant Pecan Lodge's jalapeño cheese sausage link, per Culture Map, while the Florida menu features a key lime tart from Palm Beach's Sugar Monkey bakery in one of its desserts. While it may now be one of the most successful burger chains in the world, each Shake Shack still continues to deliver a local feel.