Shake Shack’s Danny Meyer: ‘Sometimes I Want to Stand in Line’

Beloved burger chain Shake Shack recently announced plans to use automated kiosks in lieu of employees to take orders at its new Astor Place location. The news rather awkwardly coincided with the announcement that founder Danny Meyer has raised $200 million in private equity to invest in companies with a strong focus on employees and communities.

“Automation at Shake Shack has nothing to do with the fund,” said Meyer during a phone call with Bloomberg News. “As soon as Shake Shack became public [in 2015], it stopped having anything to do with Union Square Hospitality Group.”

It’s a critical time for the burger chain. The stock has dipped recently due to the overcrowded market for upscale burgers, and a new $15 minimum wage for businesses with 11 or more employees will go into effect by the end of December 2018 in New York, drastically altering the economics of the fast-food industry. It’s been tough in general for restaurants in New York as astronomical rents threaten spots in packed areas such as Union Square (Meyer relocated his flagship Union Square Cafe in large part because of real estate costs). Even employee-first chains need to survive.

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