Shake Shack Bets Against Peak Burger
Shake Shack, countering claims the burger market is running out of juice, plans to open a new London flagship restaurant in the heart of the West End theater district as the burger joint accelerates its expansion in the U.K.
The site, formerly home to KFC, will seat about 100 diners, a few more than Shake Shack's recent New York opening on Herald Square, Broadway. The opening at Leicester Square is set for Dec. 8.
The New York-based chain has opened just four sites since entering the U.K. in July 2013. By comparison, Five Guys - which arrived at the same time - has opened dozens across the country and also reached Paris. Even more rivals have targeted Britain, including Byron and Gourmet Burger Kitchen to name just two, increasing competition.
Shake Shack plans two more London openings later, at Canary Wharf and in the Nova development in Victoria.
"When those are added, by the middle of next year, we're going to be about where we wanted to be with our original strategy," Chief Executive Officer Randy Garutti said over a lunch of burgers and chicken in the Shake Shack at 1333 Broadway. "We have chosen to take our time and not just blanket the country."
The go-slow approach mirrors its strategy in the U.S., where it has 67 sites. After 12 years it only just reached Houston, the nation's fourth-biggest city.
Garutti said he doubts the U.S. has reached peak burger, the idea that demand can't keep growing the way it has because consumers are becoming more health-conscious and the market is saturated.
"We've heard people are eating more healthy food for the past 30 years," Garutti said. "Really, they are just eating in a more balanced way. My kids are not going to grow up eating fast food the way we did, but they still want a burger.
"People are eating more burgers than ever but they are choosing to do it better. Let's just take the United States: The burger industry is about $70 billion. A very small fraction of that is what you would call better burgers. That will grow."