It’s the amount of time I spent working in New York City. A time that included countless lunches, happy hour get-togethers, and coffee meetings. And then there were walks in the park, shopping trips, outdoor movie viewings, and celebrity sightings.
For much of that time, however, I commuted from central New Jersey, which equated to a three-hour round trip every day — and that was when there were no major hiccups. That’s not counting those days when the bus would get stuck in the Lincoln Tunnel for 2 hours, or a Subway line would be closed without notice.
I don’t miss that commute — although I do admit that as a mom of two toddlers, the idea of all that quiet time is incredibly appealing… but still, not worth it.
One thing I do miss, however, is the Shake Shack, the legendary hamburger stand located in Madison Square Park. The place was so popular that the lines often snaked all around the park; but the burgers and crinkle fries were worth it.
What I didn’t realize is that Shake Shack was a chain that was quickly becoming an empire. Not only does it now have 63 locations worldwide (including one in Citi Field, home of the New York Mets), but the $560-million company recently went public.
The little burger stand has become a big deal, and at a time when McDonald’s, one of the most famous hamburger restaurants in the world, is suffering its worst slump in more than a decade.
So what’s the secret sauce? What did Danny Meyer do to make Shake Shack so successful? He certainly didn’t invent the burger — what he did do, however, is make it better. Meyer applied the same principles that have made his other restaurants successful to the Shake Shack: quality customer service, use of fresh ingredients, and high-quality food served in a more casual setting.
“Shake Shack has resonated with consumers who grew up on fast food but are both wary and weary of it,” stated a New York Times piece. And with burgers having undergone a makeover in the past few decades, savvy entrepreneurs like Meyers have realized that Americans are willing to shell out a little more cash for fast food made better.
Some might even consider him an innovator — I certainly do. He didn’t invent a new product; but his idea was unquestionably groundbreaking, and his methodology was spot on.
In a recent interview, David Baker, VP of IT at St. Joseph Health, talked about a recent initiative to improve staff communication by implementing a social media-type tool (“Think of it as Facebook for business”). But before anything was pitched, he knew his team would have to prove that it met an obvious need, and that they’d be able to sell it to the board — and the staff.
The first part was relatively easy; the intranet being used across St. Joseph was “stale and static,” and usage was extremely low. The next part, however, was going to be tough. Baker knew it would be an uphill battle convincing the board that a tool being likened to Facebook wouldn’t just be a distraction. And so after dazzling them with numbers, “We said, here’s where we think the benefits are and here’s where we can have you connect with your workforce and colleagues in ways that you wouldn’t have previously,” Baker recalled.
There was still one more hurdle — driving adoption. Rather than force it on the staff, Baker and his engagement team opted for a ‘softer approach,’ saying, “This is what you could do with this tool. And you don’t have to use it, but here’s what you could gain from it.”
The plan worked. Although the original pilot was opened only to about 50 people, within six weeks there were 4,000 users. Word — and interest — had spread quickly.
“It’s very hard to roll out a product and make people go to it. It needs to be a product that people want to see,” Baker said.
Just like Baker, Meyers was confident his product would sell — it was just a matter of employing the right approach. His years as a restauranteur had given him insight into what his audience craved, and he felt confident that even a health-conscious New Yorker (or New Jersey commuter) couldn’t resist a burger in the park.