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Shake Shack’s Test Kitchen Is Finally Moving Out Of The Basement

After years of working all around the city, the burger empire is opening a dedicated test kitchen in lower Manhattan. The office is moving there, too.

Shake Shack’s Test Kitchen Is Finally Moving Out Of The Basement
[Photo: courtesy of Shake Shack]

For the last 10 years, Mark Rosati–Shake Shack’s culinary director–concocted and tested the restaurant’s menu in a basement using induction burners. That’s where he came up with its beloved chicken sandwich that uses a sous vide-like method, along with numerous other out-of-the-box fast-food recipes. Soon that’s about to change.

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Danny Meyer’s Shake Shack has just signed a new location in Manhattan’s West Village, on Varick and Houston streets to be exact. But not only will there be a restaurant in this building–the entire Shake Shack operation will be moving its offices to this new spot. Most important, Rosati and his team will have their very own test kitchen for the first time ever. The space is slated to open the second half of 2018.

“I am so excited to now have a dedicated space,” Rosati tells me, sounding a bit giddy. “Right now we have a very modest little space.”

That little space is in the basement of the Midtown East Shake Shack, which is not what you’d expect from a successful restaurant chain that made $76.7 million in revenue the first quarter of this year. Rosati always had an almost zen-like attitude about it. “Do we need a range?” he would ask, “Nah, we don’t need that … Though the reality is we do need that.”

And so, with the new West Village location, Rosati will get the kitchen of his dreams. There, he can whip up new ideas using more state-of-the-art equipment. He’ll also be able to hold smaller events when the restaurant is doing one of its well-known chef collaborations. For example, Shake Shack recently announced a new eel burger made with the help of London-based celebrity chef Fergus Henderson. This burger, says Rosati, was made in the basement. “Something like this is really hard to do without a proper kitchen.”

A Better Burger-To-Bun Ratio

Beyond the kitchen, Shake Shack’s entire office is also moving to the West Village from its current Union Square location. The move will hopefully create better communication channels between departments, says Rosati. “We’ve never had the ability of saying, ‘Marketing, operations–why don’t you come to the test kitchen?'” He goes on, “Now I’m hoping we become even more collaborative as a company.”

Andrew McCaughan, Shake Shack’s VP of development, feels similarly. “The space is going to be dedicated to our whole human resources and training team,” he tells me. Every manager will be able to get trained at this new spot. “It puts our business operations and everybody under the same roof,” says McCaughan.

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But of course the most important part is the restaurant itself. The plan is to build a new and bespoke fast-food destination. Architect Michael Hsu, who designed three other locations, will be leading the effort. McCaughan says the design plans are still in development, but, like its other locations, they want to use environmentally friendly material and site-specific designs. “We’re making sure this space is particularly connected to the [West Village] environment,” says McCaughan. He adds that it will have an outdoor cafe, with a similar layout to the other locations. A few details that have already been decided are booths with lumber by the Forest Stewardship Council and table tops from reclaimed bowling alleys.

The company has been looking for a unified space for years. None, however, made the cut. They either were too small or in too remote of a location. Now that’s about to change. Rosati says he’s going to be sitting down with the entire culinary team soon and coming up with a wish list of equipment. You can sense the chef-ly excitement in his voice.

“I’m really excited to see what we could be doing,” says Rosati. With a real kitchen, the world is his oyster.

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About the author

Cale is a Paris-based reporter. He writes about many things.

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