Ask any fan of the Mets or the Nationals what the best part about coming to the ballpark is and you’re bound to get fans who put Shake Shack at the top.
The burger, frozen custard joint of famed restaurateur Danny Meyer is known to be so packed that fans at Citi Field get in line before the game and are willing to miss several innings to enjoy the grub.
In fact, business has been so good to Meyer that he told CNBC that he is actively looking to put his brands, including Shake Shack, El Verano, Blue Smoke, and Box Frites, into more stadiums and arenas around the country. Aside from Citi Field and Nationals Park, the only other Shake Shack at a sporting venue is at Saratoga Race Track.
"We don’t ever want to be Aramark or Levy," said Meyer, referring to two of the companies that cater to sports fans. "What we want to be is the supplement to what is already at ballparks. So, we’re the frosting on the cake. Not the cake itself."
Meyer wouldn’t give specifics of just how well his company, Union Square Events, is doing at ballparks, but it’s known that while concessionaires pay for the rights to serve fans food at stadiums, Meyer doesn’t pay a dime. He merely sells the value added that his brands are to the fan’s experience.
"Owners think a utility infielder that can help a team win is worth $800,000, so what’s it worth for something that will give fans a great experience even when the team loses?," Meyer asks.
El Verano Taqueria serves Mexican fare including chili-marinated skirt steak, Blue Smoke is a BBQ spot that features Kansas City spare ribs and a smoked bologna sandwich, and Box Frites is famous for its fries with a variety of dipping sauces.
While the opportunity to develop as a destination for fans is appealing to Meyer, he remains focused on being selective.
"We’re eager and excited to find an arena that has a pro basketball team and pro hockey team so that we can serve at a lot of games. That’s why baseball is good for us. With baseball, there are 81 home games and nine opportunities to get up from your seat and get food. With football, there are only eight games and one opportunity (halftime) to go get food, plus you have to account for the fact that tailgating plays a part."
Meyer also says that he has charged Union Square Events with looking at sporting venues in cities that are prime for Shake Shack expansion. After Shake Shack was put at Nationals Park, the brand made its way into Washington, D.C.
"We like that model," Meyer said. "We want our next ballpark to be in a city where we see an opportunity to grow."
While there are only 14 Shake Shacks in the world, the brand has a cult following, especially those that have tried it in New York City, which has six of the restaurants. Other Shake Shacks are in Westport, Conn., Miami, Washington, D.C., and most recently its Middle East locations of Kuwait and Dubai.
Meyer is willing to selectively franchise Shake Shacks internationally since he admittedly doesn’t know the marketplace, but says that he doesn’t see that as a model in the U.S. any time soon.
— Darren Rovell, CNBC.com