Shake Shack's Danny Meyer denies a 'burger war', welcomes competition

By Emma Eversham

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Shake shack, Hamburger

"Make custard, not war". Danny Meyer told members of the R200 that he didn't fear healthy competition in the burger market and said the secret of his company's success lied in its staff.
"Make custard, not war". Danny Meyer told members of the R200 that he didn't fear healthy competition in the burger market and said the secret of his company's success lied in its staff.
New York restaurateur Danny Meyer, who opens the first branch of his burger restaurant Shake Shack outside of the US in London tomorrow, believes there is plenty of space within the market for more burger restaurants, saying he welcomed the arrival of fellow US burger joint Five Guys this side of the Atlantic. 

While national newspapers declared a 'burger war' with the arrival this week of both companies in London, which has seen the recent emergence of more home-grown burger concepts, Meyer told attendees of Restaurant magazine's R200 event yesterday that he could not understand what the fuss was about. 

"The fact is in the restaurant business there's nothing new," he said. "People make a big deal out of burgers these days, but is there anyone out there today who thinks they invented the hamburger? The hamburger has been out there for a long time and there will be burgers long after our time. Why are we even having this conversation about burgers and not pizza parlours of which there are more?

"We find it sort of amusing that when we open a restaurant in New York or in London one of the first things people talk about is the competition. We say make custard, not war," he said. 

Learning

Shake-Shack-burgers

Despite Shake Shack London, which will open in the Market Building in Covent Garden, becoming the company's 26th branch, Meyer told members of the industry at the event at Hutong at the Shard that there would still be things he would learn from its opening. 

“Shake Shack is a restaurant that we have learned how to grow," he said. "We are doing it slowly. When we opened our second Shake Shack we learnt about operating dual units under one brand, when we opened in Miami we learnt about operating in a new US city.

"The same will happen here. We have to ask ourselves the question, if we are fortunate enough if this works, what new do we learn about Shake Shack?"

Randy Garutti, chief executive of Shake Shack, said as the company got bigger it would be focusing on the 'small things' to help it continue to learn. 

"The bigger we get the smaller we must act," he said, before talking about the importance of working with local suppliers to ensure quality levels. The company has sourced meat for its burgers from Scotland and is working with St John bakery and chocolatier Paul A.Young to supply elements of its Frozen Custard 'Concretes' for example. 

Enlightened hospitality

Meyer also spoke about his theory of 'enlightened hospitality' which puts staff at the heart of the business. He said it had taken him many years to find out the best way to ensure customers returned time and time again and realised it was by 'selfishly' putting his members of staff first and ensuring their happiness that had helped the business become a success. 

"Restaurants have the same five stakeholders as every other business on earth, but it is how you prioritise them that makes the difference," he said after praising the National Waiters Day initiative for promoting careers front-of-house. 

"If you have happy staff you will have happy customers and lots of happy customers leads to a greater top-line which leads to happy investors. We put our staff first, our customers second, our community third, suppliers fourth and investors fifth." 

Meyer said by focusing on the happiness of his staff who in turn would spread good hospitality to his customers, he was creating a 'virtuous circle' that would ultimately lead to a stronger business and therefore happy investors. 

BigHospitality asked Meyer for his thoughts on careers front-of-house and what he feels makes someone the ideal person to work front-of-house for this short video. 

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