Shake Shack’s Meyer changed restaurant industry by breaking the rules

Starting out as a hot dog cart inside Madison Square Park in 2001, Shake Shack evolved into a stand within the park three years later, expanding its menu to include hamburgers, fries and milkshakes. Meyers refers to Shake Shack as fine casual because he uses the same quality ingredients in his restaurant that he uses in his burgers. The concept exploded: Shake Shack went public in 2014 and pulls in about $445 million in revenues annually.

Still, Meyer says, “I think Shake Shack took about five years for us to figure it out.” In 2012 Meyer stepped down as CEO and USHG’s then director of operations, Randy Garutti, started running the day-to-day operations.

Looking back, Meyer says he often wonders how things would have turned out if it had not been for Miller, the New York Times restaurant critic, back in 1985. “I always had a sense that maybe the only reason Union Square Café had been successful for those 10 years was because I had known the restaurant critic before opening the restaurant, which is crazy.

Each time something works, I say, ‘Why did it work? How much of that was luck?’ There’s luck in everything you do, and just to try to prove it to myself, [I think] that if we somehow climb that mountain, could we potentially climb one that’s a little steeper or a little bit higher — that continues to motivate me to this day.”

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