15. Shake Shack
For staying local whilst going global.
Shake Shack originated in 2001 when restauranteur Danny Meyer set up a ‘roadside’ style burger kiosk selling high quality, classic American foods as part of a programme to redevelop Manhattan's Madison Square Park, which had fallen into a state of disrepair and misuse. The kiosk succeeded beyond expectation, attracting the attention of New Yorkers eager to try the luxurious custard based milkshakes and signature 'Shack Sauce', which kept customers coming back (and queuing for over an hour) every day for nearly three years.
In 2004 the city began taking bids for a new restaurant to open within the park, and after Meyer outlined his idea for the space he opened up the first official Shake Shack in July 2004. Success in this original location prompted the brand to gradually open more branches over the next few years - and over a decade later there are 71 Shake Shacks worldwide in nine different countries.
"Two items hang on my wall: Danny’s back-of-the-napkin sketch and a sign that says, “The bigger we get, the smaller we need to act.”"
- Randy Garutti, CEO
So what makes this brand different from the hundreds of other food chains in the casual dining category? Instead of taking the cookie-cutter approach of other chains and rolling out the same restaurant in multiple locations, Shake Shack specifically design the feel of each branch to suit its surroundings by embracing existing architecture, tailoring menus to support local businesses and even creating a unique playlist of music to fit each region's local culture. Not only does Shake Shack pay careful attention to what goes on inside their restaurants, they also aim to extend their hospitality beyond the restaurant walls in any way they can, making a conscious effort to support and meet the needs of local community by raising funds for charities and considering the needs of customers - they even created a canine friendly sundae, appropriately named 'The Poochini'.
So far in 2015 Shake Shack are embracing their capability to expand after announcing four new locations opening across the US, a second location in London (hurray!) and by announcing that they aim to expand even further into international waters with a planned launch in Tokyo in 2016.
One of the factors in Shake Shack's success derives from the fact that they never actually intended to operate in more than one location. As a result, their mission to ‘do good’ and care deeply about each location has remained consistent throughout their expansion so far, encouraging them to grow organically and build a reputation as a considerate brand that customers can trust.