There are now three Shake Shacks in New York City and another on the way. The upscale quick-service concept is owned and operated by the Union Square Hospitality Group, or USHG, of which restaurant impresario Danny Meyer is chief executive. The first Shack, opened in 2004, sits in Madison Square Park with its two sister restaurants, Tabla and Eleven Madison Park, looking serenely over the long line waiting to be served. There is another in Citi Field, home of the New York Mets, and one on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. The new Shack will be built in the Nolita neighborhood.
Randy Garutti, managing partner of the Shake Shack units, handles purchasing along with the USHG purchasing manager and the general manager of each Shack. The menu is limited to burgers, hot dogs, fries, desserts and, of course, shakes. Wine and beer also are served. The lines are long. Garutti says each location serves more than 1,000 people a day.
Garutti has been with Meyer for 10 years. He has been general manager of Tabla and Union Square Café, Meyer’s first groundbreaking restaurant. As a result, he has had years of experience partnering with foodservice distributors and their sales reps.
What do you look for when you choose a distributor?
Trust. That’s a given in a distributor relationship. Consistency in pricing and service is important, too, as is variety of products available. We don’t have a static menu. We have specials, and we change flavors frequently.
Do you like to be shown new products?
I try to avoid visits about new products. Our product selections are driven by our own new item ideas rather than by products that are brought to us. For instance, we just offered balsamic fig custard as a special. So we needed ingredients for that.
Who is your primary distributor?
I’ve had a long-term relationship with the Chef’s Warehouse/Dairyland.
What do you value in a long-term relationship?
In addition to the trust I mentioned before, working with us on hours of delivery is important. Good drivers are key as well. We have frequent deliveries so it’s important that the drivers understand our inventory needs.
Do you purchase local products?
We buy local produce in season. We follow the harvest for tomatoes, for instance.
What is one great thing that your distributor sales reps do for you?
If we run out of products, they will put whatever we need in their car and drive it to us. Access to them at all times is important to make this work.
What is the biggest challenge with your distribution?
Consistency is the biggest challenge. Getting the right stuff on the right truck and delivering it at the same time every day. We have expectations that have to be met. That’s what it’s all about.