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Nation's Restaurant News 2023 Power List Sarah Rambert Shake Shack
Sarah Rambert had only had one job before when she started at the Times Square location of fast-casual Shake Shack. She enjoyed it so much that it changed the trajectory of her life.

Sarah Rambert sees Shake Shack as more than just a job

11 years in, the general manager finds continued success by being a people person

What started as a college job for Sarah Rambert has now become a full-fledged career, all because of the people.

When she was in college in 2012, Rambert got a summer job at Shake Shack while pursuing a criminal justice degree at Penn State. The native New Yorker had only had one job before this one — also in the restaurant industry — when she started at the Times Square location of the fast-casual chain. She enjoyed it so much that it changed the trajectory of her life.

“It just didn't feel like work,” she said. “It felt like coming to do something every day that you love. So I think that kind of changed my perspective on a lot of things. … I was still in school, but I just wanted to keep coming back.”

And she did. When she graduated school, she decided to take on the assistant manager position she was offered at a different Shake Shack location in New York City.

“Sometimes you don't figure out what you love until you're in the middle of something else,” she said.

She’s now the general manager of the Upper East Side Shake Shack, one of the chain’s busiest New York City stores with some of the highest guest satisfaction scores across the system.

“It's really a melting pot of all of New York,” said Jonathan Vandegrift, regional vice president of operations for Shake Shack. “It's dealing with all those different types of people who have different needs or expectations from us and their dining experience. I think juggling that is pretty unique.”

Rambert excels as a manager in this environment, according to Vandegrift.

“I think she's a great example of what it means to stay,” he said, “[and] being able to bloom where you're planted.”

Eleven years later, Rambert has developed three team members who are now general managers within the organization. She also helped found the Women’s Leadership group in New York City and pioneered monthly donation events with City Harvest for the past five years.

Even 11 years after her initial job, Rambert is bringing that same energy and love for the job to every Shake Shack location she’s worked at or spent time at.

“She described the camaraderie and energy that she felt when she joined that summer, and I think she brings that to every Shack that she has worked in. I think she brings that camaraderie and energy and she fosters that for everyone else on that team,” Vandegrift said.

One example of that is a recent guest experience. Rambert found out it was the man’s birthday and the team got together to get him a cup of custard and wish him a happy birthday. He felt so good about his experience that he wrote to Shake Shack explaining how moved he was by the gesture.

“We just try to bring the best out of our team, and definitely try to make our guests feel welcome,” Rambert said. “And I feel like [it’s] a warm community gathering. … I believe [we try] to make our guests feel that special, even on someone's birthday that they don't even like to celebrate.”

It’s this quality that Vandegrift believes makes Rambert such a great manager: she’s a people person.

“I think the first thing that we're really looking for is somebody who is a people-first leader, who really understands that nothing happens in the restaurant unless you are able to achieve it through the people that are working in that restaurant,” Vandegrift said about the things Shake Shack looks for in a leader. “As the GM, you are the one who sets the tone for everything that happens in the restaurant, good or bad.”

Part of the reason Rambert is so successful is also her participation in programs outside of her day-to-day activities. She’s a member of the HUG Fund Committee and the All-In Leadership Committee, both employee resource groups.

The HUG (Help Us Give) Fund is a fund for team members who are impacted by emergency situations and circumstances beyond their control and means. The fund has helped more than 80 team members, according to 2022 numbers, and it's fully funded by employees. In 2021, team members contributed 38% more than the year prior.

“I think her success in being a GM has allowed her to expand outside of the day-to-day role, because she's got that time,” said Vandegrift. “And she's got the support from her team that she's developed so well to do that. So it's been great to have there in New York for so long and helping us to continue to grow and push success in other places outside of just her Shack.”

Rambert is insistent that Shake Shack is more than just a job. It’s a life.

“I'm not just a GM for Shake Shack, right?” she said. “I am a motivator. I'm a leader. I help other people, not just Shake Shack in New York City [but] across the states. We give back to the community. It’s just so much more than just a job. This is my life.”

Contact Holly Petre at [email protected]

TAGS: Fast Casual
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