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The History of Shake Shack

Shake Shack started off as a hot dog cart in New York City’s Madison Square Park in 2001. Created by restaurateur Danny Meyer, it was intended to support an art installation in the park. However, the hot dogs were so popular that the cart re-opened for the next two summers. The year after that, the business was granted a contract to establish a permanent food kiosk. On June 12, 2004, Shake Shack officially opened. The fledgling restaurant followed a concept drawn up by Shake Shack founder Danny Meyer and CEO Randy Garutti on the back of a napkin — essentially, they set out to create “the modern version of a roadside burger stand.” Interestingly, Shake Shack was named after the ride that Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta stand on while performing "You're the One that I Want" in the movie Grease. The restaurant also notably got its iconic branding for free — because Shake Shack was a product of the redevelopment of New York City's Madison Square Park and the Madison Square Park Conservancy had already recruited the design firm Pentagram to complete a pro bono redesign, Shake Shack was rolled into the project and got its branding and logo free of charge. Of course, we now know that Shake Shack did not stay contained to the park but instead quickly grew in popularity, so more locations were added. In 2015, the company went public with an IPO. However, it wasn’t all smooth sailing. The New York Times negatively reviewed the restaurant’s fries, leading the company to spend a reported $1 million to find an alternative. Kitchen staff reportedly even sustained injuries trying to keep up with the prep for the new version, but the public rejected the new fries and Shake Shack ended up returning to their original fries, which they still serve today. While the chain is now widely applauded for their burgers, it started as a hot dog joint and still keeps them on the menu. Three times a year, they also sell corn dogs — on Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, and Labor Day. Interestingly, Shake Shack locations across the country each have a slightly different menu in order to capitalize on regional tastes. For example, the location in Coral Gables, Florida offers two desserts tailored to local tastes called “Key Lime Pie Oh My" and “Cookie Cubana” while locations in Philadelphia offer the cleverly named "Liberty Shell" dessert (a playful name chosen to tie in with the Liberty Bell, which is located there). In 2015, the chain rolled out breakfast options for the first time. They were originally available in just 3 locations — New York's JFK Airport, New York’s Grand Central Terminal, and Washington, D.C.'s Union Station — but the small breakfast menu was a success and was rolled out to other locations just a few years later. Still, the chain is best known for its lunch and dinner fare. Today, Shake Shack remains a fan favorite for its upscale, modern take on fast-food burgers, hot dogs, and fries.

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