Shake Shack's runaway success shows that fast food doesn’t have to mean poor quality—and the same rules apply at the franchise’s New York City headquarters. CEO Randy Garutti sought to create a quality-driven employee experience that nods to the original Madison Square Garden location and serves the transparency that the company continues to strive for.
In order to dream up the larger-than-life three-story office, Garutti turned to Austin–based Michael Hsu Office of Architecture—the firm that designed Shake Shack’s first California storefront.
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"Every time we start a project, we want to make sure that it’s the right cultural fit with the client," says principal Michael Hsu. Hsu approached the project much like a city block, "carving out moments for relief for employees to step away from their desks, [spaces] that fit varying personality types and how people work throughout the day."
It was also important for the headquarters to exemplify just how much Shake Shack cares about its employees and values the all-for-one and one-for-all attitude. "The CEO’s office is right off the kitchen looking into the all-hands deck," Hsu says. "It’s very open and collaborative, and we tried not to compartmentalize spaces."
With that community focus in mind, Hsu and his team placed a lot of their efforts into the team kitchen, which he calls "the public square of the office." The space is outfitted with walnut countertops, black cabinetry, tile, and modern light fixtures inspired by the twinkling lights at Shake Shack’s first location.
"It was important for the kitchen to feel open, but also work as an event space," he says. "Community engagement is really important to them, so we wanted it to feel cozy and flexible for smaller groups, guest speakers, larger events, or teaching moments."
The team also wanted it to have an almost residential feel—like "that of a lobby in a historic building" where people could gather and enjoy the view of the nearby Empire State Building.
For the conference areas, Hsu and his team interviewed the staff to see how much quiet they needed and how many high-energy active collaboration areas they wanted. "Everyone works differently, and we didn’t want to make it a cookie-cutter situation," he says.
The rest of the third floor contains individual workstations, luxe olive-green couches ideal for enjoying a coffee break or looking off into the New York skyline, a comfort area for new moms, private phone booths, and the library—the most peaceful spot in the building.
"The library is at the very back of the space, and we wanted it to seem like it was someone’s living room," Hsu says. "Shake Shack has always wanted their food to feel like a personal experience, and thus that sense of hospitality and culture should permeate."
In addition to the enviable open-concept office, the headquarters also features a first-floor storefront and an innovation kitchen with hand-painted wallpaper by a local muralist.
All in all, Shake Shack's headquarters reflects the company’s mission and values—which include respect, empathy, and an eye for delivering the best possible experience.