Even with a negative quarter, the sales reported for the new restaurants in these markets is impressive, Garutti said.
“If you look over the course of the trailing 12, you know we have—over the course the last couple of years you know we have had slight ups and downs in the comp base and we have added a heck a lot of sales,” Garutti said. “So, I think that is really the point that we see, for our balanced approach to market share.”
Over the past year, the New York City and Northeast markets added $15 million to $21 million of new sales, Comonte said. For the company as a whole, Shake Shack added $93 million in total sales over the past 12 months, experiencing the overall increase in same-store sales as roughly 26 percent.
“We never want have a negative comps, not something we ever are happy with and we are always going to drive toward our strategies of having that be positive and we will not rest on that,” Garutti said. “That said, when we add nearly $35 million in this last 12 months in just those two regions and we looked a little bit on comp that may happen from time-to-time and we are still in its really early phase of filling some of these markets.”
Convenience and overall guest experience are high up on the company’s priority list. Shake Shack is working to improve the brand’s digital footprint and experimenting with new menu items to make sure it stays competitive with other fast-casual brands.
The company has seen demand on the digital side from customers and is working on new technology to accommodate guests. A new online ordering platform, featuring mobile and desktop ordering capability, is currently being tested at 10 locations. By the end of the year, Shake Shack will test self-order kiosks in 20 additional restaurants.
The transition is a work in process, and by testing in different markets and locations the company is working out how to incorporate the new technology without disrupting the existing experience, Garutti said.
“We know convenience is more important than ever to our guests,” he said. “… We know that digital channels continue to grow as a percentage of our total sales and we know that they generally have a higher average check.”
“We continue to add complexity for already busy Shacks. These additional channels can at times complicate our kitchens and at peak times create certain flow issues in the front of that,” he added.
Learning how to optimize existing kitchens and restaurants to accommodate the new channels of ordering is a process of trial and error. However, with actual customer experience and feedback, Shake Shack is able to incorporate what is and isn’t working into the overall design of the brand, Garutti said.
“We know we have got a long way to go. We are excited about the opportunity and growth we believe continue digital expansion represents for our business,” he said.