The new cashier-less, counter-less Shack could shake things up in New York City and around the country.

Charlie Heller
October 02, 2017

Customers at Shake Shack's new Astor Place location may notice slightly fewer people than at the usual crowded Shack, thanks to the removal of the cashier's counter. Instead, you'll have to place your order either at a digital kiosk or via a mobile app and, in an even bigger change from chain norms, you can't pay in cash.

The Astor Place Shake Shack "playground" as it's called by CEO Randy Garutti will be used to test out new methods of operation that could eventually spread across the country. The first of its experiments, the cashless, touch-screen based ordering kiosks will send orders directly to the kitchen, which Garutti says has been rearranged to "eliminate friction time."

Also eliminated are the traditional buzzers, which the new Shake Shack, opening early this October, is replacing with a simple text that will tell you when your order is ready. This way, you won't be "tethered" to the restaurant while food is being prepared says Garutti, who also told CNBC that the new tests are part of a "guest-centric strategy" that aims to create a more streamlined Shake Shack experience.

While the idea of a counter-less restaurant may conjure up images of a fully automated, person-less spot, the Astor Place Shake Shack will still have a front of the house staff—they'll just be manning the kiosks as generalized "hospitality champs." Garutti claims the new system will help staff focus more on the customer by better allocating duties between kitchen and front of the house, though whether eliminating cash will be worth the streamlined purchase process, Shake Shack is using the experiment to find out.

The dining room and waiting area (should you use it) will, at least at first, be the same as the standard Shake Shack's, but there are some further experiments on the horizon. So far, Garutti says the biggest ones will be dedicated to reducing delivery time and creating new delivery packaging techniques that could help food keep better. Whether or not people want digital ordering to become the norm requires more testing to find out, but the potential end of soggy fries would be a unanimously hailed result.