A Conversation with Shake Shack CFO Katie Fogertey

    The brand's innovation-driven executive chats about the digital unlocks ahead for the burger fast casual.

    Fast Casual | March 31, 2023 | Danny Klein
    Shake Shack's Katie Fogertey.
    Liz Eidelman
    "Digital has the potential to unlock new ways to provide a great guest experience," Fogertey says.

    As Shake Shack continues to play the role of category disruptor, CFO Katie Fogertey took some time to chat with QSR about the future of the dining room and where the brand heads next. Read more on Katie’s vision and Shake Shack’s continued evolution in QSR’s April cover story.

    Shake Shack has long been a brand rooted in experience and hospitality. Now that in-store dining has returned, how is the brand balancing the rise in digital orders with making sure guests who come inside have the same experience they’ve always expected?

    While we continue to evolve our format and digital capabilities to enhance the guest experience, Shake Shack will always be a place of community gathering, as it’s been since day one. Our plan is to continue providing all Shake Shack guests with an amazing guest experience no matter their circumstance - whether they want to order ahead using our Shake Shack App, dine in-Shack, take their order to go or use delivery or drive-thru. We want to make it seamless for our guests and offer more convenience in our own channels, while delivering on everything we stand for today.

    How is the kiosk initiative in particular helping with guest experience, and for team members as well?

    Kiosks have helped streamline the omnichannel guest experience. We have kiosks in more than half of our Shacks, and our goal is to bring kiosks to all Shacks by the end of the year. Our digital team developed a kiosk experience that helps guests navigate our menu and premium add-ons more easily for some than the traditional menu board. Our kiosk channel is our highest profit margin channel and highest in-Shack check. Kiosks also help our team members be more efficient, and over the long term, our investments will allow us to expand our digital and omnichannel ecosystem.

    Shack Track addresses the shifting omnichannel world across multiple builds and access points. Talk about how this has evolved to date and what could still be to come.

    We launched Shack Track at the start of the pandemic when we saw how quickly our digital business was growing. Many of the fast pivots in the early days of the pandemic soon became permanent functions, including implementing multi-channel delivery, enhancing digital pre-ordering and expanding our fulfillment capabilities. Shack Track is our digital pre-ordering and fulfillment experience and includes pick-up shelves, curbside pick-up, pick-up windows and more. The need to enhance and alter the physical restaurant to meet the needs of digital was so important to Shake Shack that today, all new restaurants we open have some aspect of Shack Track.

    With the growth of on-demand delivery and mobile app usage, we’ve seen that guests are demanding ease, and our new drive-thru model focuses on giving our guests convenience without compromise. We’re on pace to double our drive-thru count this year. We’re learning a lot from our first year of drive-thru, and this year, we’re focused on improving on our design and construction.

    Have some of these options, such as walk-up windows, helped take some friction out of the delivery process when it comes to in-store customers and fulfillment? In other terms, where the lobby or queue isn’t getting crowded with both sides of the business competing with each other?

    Shack Track aims to tackle many challenges that have arisen from building a rapidly growing digital business while maintaining our commitment to the traditional dine-in business. We wanted to be able to provide our restaurants and team members the tools to best handle the increase in digital sales. We worked hard over the past two and a half years to identify opportunities to improve the overall omnichannel guest journey as well as the work of our team members.

    What are some dine-in trends you’re seeing stick after the pandemic? Are more customers ordering ahead for pickup, for instance?

    In the pandemic, we saw a big surge in off-premise dining demand. However, our gains today are coming from our guests coming into the Shacks, which is great for our business. With the investments we made ahead of and during the pandemic, our guests have more ways of getting their Shake Shack than ever before. It’s exciting to see so many guests downloading and using the Shack App to order ahead and skip the line. Ordering ahead and picking up in the Shack can be a major time-saver for our guests, and it streamlines what can be a very busy and crowded order line. This also provides us with a unique opportunity to communicate with our guests on a much more personal level that we didn’t have prior to our digital business.

    Just last year alone, we had more than a million app downloads. As of the third quarter in 2022, 4.5 million guests have made a first-time purchase in our owned digital channels.

    But, our digital journeys go beyond the App. We also anticipate seeing more guests interacting with our kiosks. A good portion of guests prefer them over traditional cashiers when given the choice, as they’re fun to explore and visually helpful when it comes to customizing a menu item. Our App and Kiosk are also helpful tools for our Team Members, as they allow our Team Members to focus more on guest service and hospitality.

    Broadly speaking, what do you think the future of quick-service dining rooms looks like and how should operators prepare?

    Digital has the potential to unlock new ways to provide a great guest experience. We see a lot of opportunities ahead to grow and develop our digital offerings in and out of the Shack to provide guests with an improved level of access, convenience and connection. Hospitality is at the center of everything we do at Shake Shack. That used to be limited to just in-Shack. Now, with digital tools and more channels, we are focused on delivering hospitality across the omnichannel. We strive to continue offering guests new ways to get their Shake Shack however and whenever they want it