Shaking Up the Restaurant Business: How Shake Shack ’ s Brand Vision Guides Smart Decisions

on Wednesday, 09 September 2015. Posted in Brands

Shake Shack envisions a world where what we eat is a reflection of how much we care about the earth and our families and our own bodies.

That’s a big vision. And at some companies, it would just be words on a page. But Shake Shake clearly has a well-honed brand identity to answer the big questions that guide decisions that bring the vision to life at all levels of the company:

  • Who are we?
  • What’s our noble purpose?
  • What do we do?
  • What’s our style?
  • What do we have in common with customers?
  • What do we want customers’ use of the brand say about them?

A clear, well-developed brand identity that is understood and embraced internally allows employees to make decisions confidently, knowing they are brand-right and supportive of the business strategy. This is particularly important in service businesses where employees embody the brand.

In our consulting practice, we use the Brand Amplitude Brand Identity Prism™ to capture the brand's answers to the big questions raised above.  We developed our view of Shake Shack's brand identity shown below using publicly available data and our prism framework.

identity prism

The prism distills what Shake Shack does to support its vision. The company uses healthier ingredients and cooks its food to order using a secret burger recipe and proprietary caramelizing equipment. But they’re doing more than making a better burger. They’re delivering a better experience by empowering employees to give customers the benefit of the doubt, including giving away free stuff, and “doing whatever it takes to make customers feel loved.”

Shake Shack shares the love with employees through higher than average wages, profit sharing, stock participation, and more autonomy than the typical chain restaurant allows. Recently, Shake Shack went further. Founder Danny Meyer is CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group, which includes several high-end and well-known restaurants, mostly in NYC. His latest move to eliminate tipping at all of his restaurants eliminate tipping at all of his restaurantsaffects all 1,800 employees and reverberates throughout the industry. By eliminating tipping and factoring the cost of a living wage into its pricing, Meyer aims to make working in restaurants a more attractive option and recruit top talent to become dishwashers, cooks, and servers.

To create a great experience for customers, Shake Shack starts by focusing on what it takes to make – and keep – employees happy. With over 70 locations and counting, an engaged workforce, on-trend branding and a valuation of over $1 billion, Shake Shack is not only helping redefine what it means to be a fast food burger place. It’s also delivering enlightened hospitality.

A clear brand identity like Shake Shack’s is key to building a compelling and consistent brand. If your organization struggles to make brand-right decisions, it may be time to revisit your brand identity.



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