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Shake Shack holds back on vegan burger, not sure if fake meat is more than a fad

Shake Shack Burger Chain Considers I.P.O.
Workers prepare orders in the original Shake Shack in Madison Square Park in New York City.
(Andrew Burton / Getty Images)
Bloomberg

Shake Shack Inc. is staying away from vegan burgers, at least for now.

The fast-food chain, known for its Pat LaFrieda beef and crinkle cut fries, is watching the vegan burger trend that’s been turbocharged by Beyond Meat Inc.’s massive post-IPO stock rally. But Shake Shack isn’t ready to get on board, according to Chief Executive Officer Randy Garutti.

First, the chain, which made its name taking “classic American menu items and doing them better,” wants to see if the buzz has staying power.

“If people keep coming back for these products, once this euphoria moves past its initial stages, then let’s listen and learn and we’ll see,” Garutti said in an interview.

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For now, the company is testing a vegetarian burger that was created in-house in about 20 restaurants, including some in New York. Garutti said the company has spoken with Beyond Meat and its rival Impossible Foods Inc. and is watching as companies like Nestle SA and Tyson Foods Inc. push into the space.

Still, there’s no rush to develop its own offering, even after Burger King’s test of the Impossible Whopper drove increased sales and customer traffic in St. Louis. Burger King is now adding the item across the U.S.

“We’re not trying to compete with those guys and we’re certainly not trying to serve the same products,” Garutti said. “It’s a fascinating thing we all have to watch, but it needs time.”

Shake Shack, which started as a hot dog stand in New York’s Madison Square Park, now has nearly 240 locations, including about 100 overseas. The company is opening a restaurant in Mexico City next week, the first of 30 restaurants it plans in Mexico through 2028.

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The company also has aggressive plans in Asia, where it opened in Shanghai and Singapore earlier this year. Shake Shack, which already has 10 locations in Japan, also started operations in the Philippines this year.


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