The multi-lane concept will accommodate on-site and mobile orders.

By Mike Pomranz
July 31, 2020
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When Shake Shack first opened in 2004, the basic concept was classic fast food moves but with modern culinary sensibilities. And yet, as the company has expanded into a nationwide phenomenon, one staple of quick-service restaurants has never been tried—that is, until now… drive-thrus.

During yesterday’s quarterly earnings call, CEO Randy Garutti included a major announcement for burger fans averse to exiting their cars: Shake Shack is planning to open its first-ever drive-thru location next year. “We've not yet announced the initial drive-thru locations, but intend to lead with traditional suburban high-traffic quarters,” he stated.

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Andrew McCaughan—Shake Shack’s chief development officer—told me via email that this new drive-thru (which shouldn’t be confused with Shake Shack’s “drive-up” windows that require preordering) is a natural extension of the burger chain’s plans to make to-go orders easier. “We are looking forward to introducing our first drive thru experience next year, in addition to the roll out of 'Shack Track' in the coming months—our enhanced digital order and pick up solution that includes the ability to order via app or web and pick up by way of curbside, walk-up or drive-up window or in-Shack pick-up shelves. We’re confident that these accelerated digital and physical investments will allow us to continue to offer our quality, made-to-order food at scale, and always with a superior guest experience in mind."

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Of course, this is Shake Shack, so Garutti also stated that “this is not your average drive-thru.” For instance, the renderings show multiple lanes, including different entrances for “drive thru” and “app pickup delivery.” “Obviously, this country has proven that the drive-thru in its old form works,” Garutti stated later in the call. “We want to do it in its new form. We want to do it better than ever with an experience that you stay, you drive-thru, whichever you want. And it's everything Shake Shack has always been, that modern version of that old roadside community gathering place.”

Admittedly, what exactly that means isn’t entirely clear. “We're still in the early days for Shack Track, drive-thru, and our enhanced pickup models. And we have a lot of learning,” Garutti explained. Hey, as long as the voice on the other end of the box isn’t completely garbled, they'll already have made an improvement.