There's No Place Like NoMad

October 2, 2018

Shake Shack—from Madison Square Park Hot Dog Stand to Global Phenomenon

From New York to Dallas, from Miami to Denver, from Tokyo to Dubai, from London to Moscow . . . if you go to almost any of Shake Shack’s hundreds of locations worldwide, you should be prepared to stand in line. This is nothing new, actually; those who remember the original hot dog cart that appeared in Madison Square Park in 2000 are well-acquainted with lines.

How did a New York hot dog stand become such a national phenomenon in a few years’ time? It’s a classic American success story that begins with an effort to inject new life into the park itself.

Early Beginnings

In 2000, businesses around Madison Square Park recognized that the park was in need of a complete revitalization.  The Madison Square Park Conservancy was formed and the result of its work is evident in the incredible park we experience today.  In an early effort to stir interest, Danny Meyer, local celebrity restaurateur (Union Square Café, Gramercy Tavern), began a hot dog stand just inside the park.  It was an immediate hit and remained for three years, and each year, the lines grew longer and longer.

Permanent Fixture

The plan changed when the Conservancy decided to take another step toward park revitalization by installing a permanent food kiosk and courting bids to occupy the space. In 2004, Meyer and CEO Randall Garutti won the bid to move the hot dog stand into the new kiosk while expanding its offerings to include its now-famous gourmet burgers, shakes and crinkle-cut fries. The original Shake Shack was born.

A Global Phenomenon

Over the next several years, not only was the new Shake Shack a stunning success—it rapidly gained a worldwide cult following.  It isn’t surprising given the standout 100% angus beef burgers without antibiotics and hormones, creamy shakes and typical Danny Meyer-customer focus.   Locals and visitors alike, some from remote parts of the globe, came to experience the taste of a Shackburger with fries, along with shakes, frozen custard, wine and beer.

So popular was the original Shake Shack that a “shack cam” was installed so people could monitor the length of the lines before deciding to come out. The longest lines ever recorded happened in 2014 during Shake Shack 10 — a weeklong celebration of the 10th anniversary of Shake Shack in the park, which featured a different specialty burger each day of the week by five celebrity chefs.

By the time of Shake Shack 10 expansion of the brand had begun, there were locations in 13 states. In 2010, the restaurant opened new locations throughout New York City, as well as its first out-of-town location in Miami’s South Beach. A year after the anniversary, Danny Meyer took his Shake Shack enterprise public. As of April 2018, there were 168 locations worldwide, with no signs of slowing down. Shake Shack is virtually everywhere now; it can even be found in airports and sports stadiums, such as Citi Field.  And the lines continue to grow.  Even the original location maintains its volume with wait times of over an hour when the weather is pleasant.  There is so much that can be said about the huge success of this brand, but one interesting fact is that the average store revenue in the U.S. is more than double that of McDonald’s.

The success story of Shake Shack is just one example of how Madison Square Park and the NoMad neighborhood have proven to be a local destination with a global reach. Today, millions of people enjoy Shake Shack burgers, fries and shakes around the world—but of course, New Yorkers know the first, the original, will always be right here in Madison Square Park.

Shake Shack
Madison Square Park
New York, NY 10010
(212) 889-6600

Monday – Friday: 7:30 am – 11:00 pm
Saturday and Sunday: 8:30 am – 11:00 pm