Shake Shack is currently the reigning king of the fast food world. Their expansion is happening so quickly it might as well be exponential, they’ve managed to maintain quality at scale, their new product rollouts are insanely popular, and lines snake out the door of nearly every location on a daily basis. At the same time, old-guard fast food chains that serve a nearly identical menu are struggling to find their footing and keep up with changing times. So why is Shake Shack, with its straight-ahead menu of burgers, hot dogs, and concretes, performing so insanely well?
Shake Shack’s social media is on-point and every opening is as celebrated as that of an Apple Store, but those aren’t secrets to success. You want to know what that secret is? The burger patties. Ask anyone why they don’t eat McDonald’s hamburgers, and they’ll probably tell you it’s because they think they’re gross. And if you look at a standard burger patty, they are pretty gross: gray, frozen, tasteless, and made with low-grade meat. Shake Shack, on the other hand, sources its meat from the reputable Pat LaFrieda, who devised a custom blend for the restaurant. It’s whole-muscle high-quality meat that’s loaded with marbling. Those never-frozen patties are sprinkled with a lot of salt, pressed down onto a high-end Miraclean Griddle that stays ripping hot no matter how many cold patties come into contact with it, scraped off with a paint scraper once they’ve developed a brown and crispy crust, then draped in melting cheese, greenmarket-grade lettuce and tomato, and tucked into a Martin’s potato bun. It’s arguably a perfect fast food-style burger, made according to restaurateur/ founder Danny Meyer’s exacting fine-dining standards.
It’s not that people don’t like hamburgers anymore, it’s that they don’t like to eat low-quality beef. The supply lines for McDonald’s and its ilk are so entrenched, and there are so many locations, that switching courses and actually sourcing some decent beef is next to impossible, but if they want to start turning things around, they should take a hint from Shake Shack and focus on their core product: burgers. Trust us, customers probably won’t mind spending a little more money if they know it’s high quality. Who trusts a one-dollar burger, anyway?