From humble beginnings as a hot dog cart in a small park to this: Shake Shack is about to get its own sprawling new headquarters, a combination test kitchen, restaurant, and office and conference space in New York City’s West Village neighborhood.
For a decade culinary director Mark Rosati has been working out of a tiny basement space in Midtown Manhattan. “I’m excited to soon be working in the same building as the rest of our team,” Rosati says. “For years we’d be developing new menu items in the kitchen and call our marketing team over to come try the new products and it would be a hassle. Now we can get feedback almost immediately.”
The building, at 225 Varick Street, used to house a restaurant and bar called Clarkson which has since closed. That space will become a new full-service Shack designed by the Michael Hsu Office of Architecture and have indoor and sidewalk seating as well as art designed by a local artist. Unfortunately for fans, the test kitchen part of the space will be beneath the ground-floor restaurant, and will not be open to the public.
Shake Shack’s operations team will take over office space on the third floor above the restaurant. The burger company’s new headquarters will open in mid-2018.
“For us it’s really about consolidating our operations team and culinary team,” says Andrew McCaughan, Shake Shack’s VP of development. The third-floor office space will accommodate desks for over 150 staffers, from human resources to marketing to accounting. The basement will house a test kitchen, conference rooms, training center, and desk space for the culinary team.
That said, there’s a possibility that new items perfected in the Shack test kitchen will make their way upstairs, allowing West Village customers to test them first. Unfortunately, Rosati makes no promises. “Our new menu items are often designed to be location-specific,” he says, “so we won’t always be putting them on the West Village menu.” (Chicken tenders, despite being featured in the Shake Shack cookbook, are still not being considered as a menu item, Rosati says.) Additionally, the test kitchen will allow the team to work out the process for its chef-driven collaborations, like London-based chef Fergus Henderson’s eel burger last week.
According to Rosati, the next burger mash-up will be with James Beard Award-winning chef Paul Kahan of Chicago’s Publican Quality Meats and launches on October 6.
Public announcements of test kitchen spaces have become interesting marketing opportunities for companies like Chipotle, which opened a new test kitchen earlier this year. The kitchen is also a full-service location where new items are put on the menu and tested on the paying public. For the first time this year Taco Bell allowed diners to make reservations at its test kitchen. That Shake Shack doesn’t plan to open their test kitchen to the public in any significant way will likely be a disappointment to fans.