Some nontraditional locations can be handled by the right imaginative, adaptable franchisee. But for other locations in these venues—including those in airports and travel plazas—franchisees need to bring in additional management help, such as HMSHost, Havard says. “Many brands are very excited about going to an airport and then realize it will cost $100,000 just to put the proposal required by the airport together, because it will be 4 or 5 inches thick with renderings and layouts,” she says.
Setting up shop in an airport is complex: Airport store construction costs twice as much as standalone stores because it must be done at night. Menu items either need to be added to the menu to fit extensive airport hours or removed to improve speed. The hiring process can take more than a month due to stringent security requirements. Design elements often need to be changed to fit the space, and airport owners, local governments, and other authorities must provide various approvals. Havard says HMSHost allows brands to hand over those complications while still remaining closely involved in the process.
Shake Shack does not franchise units, but when the burger brand decided to open in airports and travel plazas, it relied on an HMSHost partnership. “Partnering with HMSHost enables our nontraditional growth strategy to thrive,” says Michael Kark, Shake Shack’s chief global licensing officer. “The airport environment has different challenges than street-side Shacks and requires a variety of unique ways to approach business and operations, so a strategic partner is key.”
Shake Shack works hand-in-hand with HMSHost during a unit’s development process, Kark says. HMSHost partners attend the same three-month deep-immersion training for Shake Shack management, ensuring that HMSHost-run locations fully understand brand standards. They can produce the same burgers, shakes, and fries as traditional stores; speak to the ingredients on the menu (which Kark says is significant due to increasing interest in food sourcing and standards); and provide the same level of customer service as a street-side Shake Shack.
While the brand works to provide consistent experiences at all stores, it is especially important that transit locations give visitors a good impression. “Transit locations are highly visible and give us the opportunity to introduce Shake Shack to guests who may not be familiar with the brand otherwise. We love having that opportunity,” Kark says. “Whether we’re welcoming guests’ home from a long journey or fueling them up for their trip, we believe this is one of the most powerful ways to share the love.”