Symbiosis between Two American Eatery Brands!

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There is symbiosis found everywhere in the nature. Plants, animals and humans live in symbiosis with one another. Fungi and plants being in a mutually beneficial relationship is the most common example. The Langer monkeys and spotted deer are seen together foraging for food.

The spotted deer follow the monkeys when they move from tree to tree for the ripe fruit. The monkeys drop fruit and leaves, either deliberate or accidental, for the deer so that when their common predator, the tiger, approaches, the deer warn the monkeys and they all run for cover. We see that same give-take between humans, especially in business. An ophthalmologist, an optician and a druggist staying nearby one another can share the benefit of patients of one becoming the customers of the other.

Alligator open mouth with birds

And here we have a more symbiotic relationship between two American eateries near the Madison Square Park, Madison Avenue, New York City.

It all started way back in 1998 when Eleven Madison Park restaurant (EMP) was opened in the landmark Metropolitan Life North Building by the Union Square Hospitality Group (USGH)), established in 1985 by the most respected restaurateur, Danny Meyer. Daniel Humm, as a chef, and Will Guidara, as a manager, joined EMP in 2006, and in 2011, they bought it from Meyer.

Meanwhile, Shake Shack, a food cart inside Madison Square Park, started serving hotdogs to the park visitors in 2000. In 2004, when Danny Meyer’s USHG won the bid to open a permanent kiosk in the park to support the Madison Square Park Conservancy’s first art installation, the Shake shack became, as a Shake Shack fan said, ‘an instant neighborhood fixture’ in and around the park, serving the most delicious burgers, hot dogs, frozen custard, beer and wine and the namesake milkshakes.

Mutually Beneficial Relationship:

Eleven Madison Park Logo Design

Photo Credit

This is where our story of symbiotic relationship begins. As there wasn’t enough room for a kitchen at Shake Shack (SS), most of the cooking for it was done in the nearby Eleven Madison Park (EMP) restaurant. As the food was made in the kitchens of EMP, they had a touch of class and quality, and the lines at SS grew longer and the popularity wider.

Most of the New Yorkers, according to the statistics, eat 2.6 dinners and 2.1 lunches a week at restaurants, which comes to 56% of their weekly meals at restaurants, and so, it’s no wonder a restaurant and a burger/hotdog kiosk that give their best soon became a successful pair in the eatery history of New York City.

Shake Shack Outlet

Photo Credit

Danny Meyer confessed openly that during the recession EMP suffered a lot and also that had it not been for Shake Shack, he wasn’t sure, EMP would have survived at all. Though SS was owned and supplied by EMP, it supported its mother concern in times of foul weather. After the recession, when EMP started doing well, Meyer decided to separate EMP and SS so that SS no longer had to support EMP.

And when EMP had to be sold to chef Humm and partner/manager Guidara, Danny Meyer was heard saying emotionally that it was bittersweet to lose someone or something very dear; yet glad to see them grow independent, like when he had felt seeing his oldest daughter went off to college. The tenth anniversary week-long celebrations of SS was held with each day a special burger made by a renowned chef, and on the fourth day it was Daniel Humm’s turn and it was said the customers started to arrive at the park as early as 7 am and the line was the longest ever recorded in SS history. It was here that Danny Meyer praised his former employee, chef Daniel Humm, and declared that the two empires, though separated above, were joined at the hip!

They Won New York and They Want to Win the World:

In November 2012, the executive chef of EMP, Daniel Humm, took a bold step of making drastic changes to his original menu in order to withstand the new trend in restaurant diners. He adopted a new tasting menu with a touch of gastronomic items with audio and video support . According to Jeff Gordinier, the new move could be a risky move to convert the EMP experience into an extravagant participatory, and even doubted whether the transformation would delight customers or alienate them by seeming gimmicky. Some experts even brought Romera New York as an example, which closed only six months after opening because of its gastronomic experiments that fell flat with the diners.

The new menu, called the ‘grid’, which encourages diners to have their dinner made around specific ingredients, keeping off specific allergy causing items, instead of having predetermined recipes. However, as Jeff Gordinier doubted there were some confusion and negative remarks on the ‘grid’ menu, and Humm and Guidara quickly made amendments to their strategy, scarpped the grid menu, reduced the number of courses, and brought the situation back to normalcy.

michellin star dish

Photo Credit

The improved menu became so popular that it was hardly noticed or objected by the guests when there was a price hike of 15%, increasing the cost from $195 a head to $225; on the contrary, EMP has now become the fifth most expensive restaurant in New York, and culinary destination for the locals as well as tourists, with the number of awards — 3 Michelin Stars, 4 James Beards Foundation Awards, 4th rank in 2014 (a sharp rise from 50th position in 2010) on S. Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants, 4 stars from New York Times, 5 stars from Forbes Travel Guide, Grand Table du Monde 2013 Award and Wine Spectator Grand Award, 2011-13. With three Michelin Stars and four New York Times Stars, EMP is one of only four New York restaurants in the much-lauded Seven Star Club.

The Shake with about 46 Shacks:

shake shack logo design

Mean while, the Shake Shack is busy making strides on its own. In June 2014, SS won the Halo Award 2014 for Best Social Service Campaign, for raising over $285, ooo, presented by Cause Marketing Forum for NO KID HUNGRY!

It has become so popular that there is a Shack Cam installed at the SS to show the long line of guests at the Shack all round the season.

There are about 46 branches not only in New York but also in other states: Washington DC, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Florida and Massachusetts.

And the SS has its presence felt internationally. There are SS outlets in London, Istanbul, Moscow and Dubai, and about 13 outlets else where in the Middle East.

American burger

Tina Fey, the film and TV personality, is known to say that her perfect day ends with Shake Shack.

There are burgers for dogs at Shake Shack– Pooch-ini $3.75 and Dog O Bones $7.50, and there are T-shirts and other items for young people sold with SS mark on them at all the SS outlets.

Though the French Fries have been a disaster at SS, the rest of the items are worth your money, and the vegetarian burger is the newest addition.vegetarian burger is the newest addition.

So, when you have to take anything from a business, remember that you have to give something back to that business… not just the money but much more!