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After much publicity and anticipation Shake Shack finally opened at their new Covent Garden location yesterday – their first in the UK.

Shake Shack has become a key part of the US tourist scene with city guides citing outlets as a destination tourist spot alongside icons such as the Statue of Liberty and Grand Central Station. That’s quite something for a burger joint, especially given the many burger choices you get in the USA. I discovered it a couple of years ago when I went to their Madison Square Park location and have been following it ever since. So what is the magic formula?

Shake Shack at Madison Square Park, New York

Shake Shack at Madison Square Park, New York

I love the story that in 2004 founder Danny Meyer and CEO Randy Garutti literally drew their concept on the back of a napkin and they refer to that napkin to this day to make sure they stick to the plan. Their aim was ‘to create the best burger company in the world, for the world and for their team’. Quite an aspiration. They call their approach the “anti-chain” chain. So despite their expansion, they approach each outlet individually making decisions as if it is their one and only restaurant. And they are controlled in that expansion having kept it to around 4 a year until this year when that is likely to double.

Danny Meyer and Randy Garutti in Covent Garden this week

Danny Meyer and Randy Garutti in Covent Garden this week

It is so reassuring to me that their aim balances ethical practices as well as a need to really acknowledge their team. As a result, they seem to be welcoming some interesting people to work with them on it. Their staff retention is crazy high, especially as it is a fast food concept and they are proud to count some fine dining experts as a core part of their team. This is all because of their approach not only to recruitment but also to training and development… plus, their Shack Dollars policy. This ensures that 1% of all monthly revenue is given back as a bonus to staff at that unit which is an immediate and focused incentive for everyone to drive sales.

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London is not their only foray outside of the US. They first went to the Middle East and then onto Istanbul. And in each place they embrace the local supply chain and product choice. Here in the UK they opted for Aberdeen Angus beef and count other British classics such as Cumberland sausages and Wiltshire cured smoked bacon as key ingredients to their UK menu. In addition they have partnered with London favourites St John Bakery to complement their signature frozen custards and concretes for a fabulous array of sweet treats that can be customised daily.

Shake Shack London (Preview) - Brought your dog?

And if all that’s not enough, they even have a couple of choices for your friendly canine too. They really have thought of everything.

Shake Shack can be found in Covent Garden and this interview gives you a bit more from CEO Randy Garutti.

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