Shake Shack started off as a summer hot dog cart in Madison Square Park. It was not meant to be a company - it was completely accidental. It started off as an expression of community building.
In one respect, it's easier to open a restaurant in New York because you get more media attention than anywhere else. Almost everyone will try a new place once, irrespective of the reviews, because it's a spectator sport.
Gramercy Tavern appeared on the cover of New York Magazine the day we opened, and it was five deep at the bar with people who were not necessarily here to dine. They just wanted to kinda sniff out the hot, new restaurant.
My staff's job is to adjust to circumstances with technical precision and artful grace so that every patron has a wonderful experience.
Today, it's almost the outlier if people are not photographing what they ate and then sharing that in real time.
In an age when so many groups are rolling out restaurants faster than your local baker makes donuts, my goal is that each restaurant feels hand-crafted. That they have their own soul.
Human nature doesn't change. When enough people are comfortable enough financially, there is going to be human nature that wants to spend more money on better quality and, to some degree, status symbols as well.
I'm a big believer that you can try to change the world based on philosophy, doctrine, and belief. But I think the thing that really drives the world is hedonism, the pleasure factor.
When the economy goes sour, there are three different kinds of restaurants that do well: the smaller-scale neighborhood restaurants that don't ask much of you; those that have banked enormous goodwill by offering great value during the boom; and those with proven records of excellence, a sure thing.
Ninety-five percent of all brussels sprouts come from California.
At the base level, a burger is a piece of meat and a bun with something on it. It's simple but it seems to make a lot of people happy.
It's the job of any business owner to be clear about the company's nonnegotiable core values. They're the riverbanks that help guide us as we refine and improve on performance and excellence. A lack of riverbanks creates estuaries and cloudy waters that are confusing to navigate. I want a crystal-clear, swiftly flowing stream.
In order to encourage the cattle farmers to raise a herd of all-natural cattle, which is a several-year process, they have to know that it's not just Shake Shack that wants to buy it. They have to have other buyers who are willing to pay more for all natural.
Union Square Cafe is all soul, not brain.
During one of his uncannily well-timed impromptu visits to my restaurant, Union Square Cafe, Pat Cetta taught me how to manage people. Pat was the owner of a storied New York City steakhouse called Sparks, and by that time, he was an old pro at running a fine restaurant.
My history has been to grow the roots as deeply as you can before going on to the next thing. That's why it took 10 years to go from Union Square Cafe to Gramercy Tavern, and another 10 years to go from Blue Smoke's first location to its second, and five to go from Shake Shack 1 to Shake Shack 2.
I opened Union Square Cafe when I was just 27 years old, and my first hope was simply that it would stay in business. My higher hope was that in its lifetime, it might grow to play an essential role in the lives of its stakeholders.
Wearing a baseball cap or sleeveless shirt in a white-tablecloth restaurant is rude and makes other diners upset, just like someone on a cellphone.
The part of capitalism that doesn't work for me is when capitalists make decisions in the way that Adam Smith suggested, which is that as long as you do everything in the interest of the investor, you're going to actually make the best decisions for all other stakeholders. I don't happen to agree with that.
Earlier in my career, I needed to be the writer, casting director, set designer, leading man, and producer. I've been eliminating a lot of those jobs. I'm an executive producer right now. I still get to pick the best screenplays.