Danny Meyer remembers getting his driver’s license at 16 and going to his favorite places to eat in St. Louis, including Fitz’s Root Beer, Steak and Shake and Ted Drewes as a way of expressing his independence.
Meyer said his experiences growing up in St. Louis “120 percent” influenced his businesses later on in life. On Monday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh talked to St. Louis native Danny Meyer, founder of the Shake Shack chain and CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group.
The first Shake Shack in St. Louis will open on Monday, Dec. 11 in the Central West End at the southeast corner of Euclid and West Pine. There are more than 100 Shake Shack locations worldwide including in Saudi Arabia, Russia, the U.K. and Japan. Meyer described the restaurant as a modern day version of a roadside burger stand that serves burgers, chicken, hot dogs, shakes, frozen custard, beer, wine and more.
Meyer said the Shake Shack menu keeps 80 percent of its menu and design consistent around the world. But 20 percent of the menu is catered to the local population, which includes serving Sujuk sausage in Istanbul and the traditional Cumberland sausage in London.
“We want people to feel like ‘this is my Shake Shack.’ In order to do that, we have to be sensitive and excited about other people’s cultures,” he said. In St. Louis, Shake Shack will collaborate with local frozen custard shops and beer brewing companies.
Their frozen custard concretes will incorporate Askinosie Chocolate, Park Avenue Coffee and Pie Oh My! A portion of the proceeds from the Pie Oh My! custards will go to the non-profit organization Forest Park Forever. The Central West Blend specialty concrete will include gooey-butter cake.
The restaurant will also introduce a St. Louis exclusive called The Mound City Double – a double Provel cheeseburger topped with all-natural smoked Niman Ranch bacon and a special sauce.
“[The sauce] kind of reminds me of the special sauces I grew up eating whether it was at Crown Candy Kitchen or whether it was the original Fitz’s Root Beer stand … so we’re just paying homage,” he said.
Initiating business model changes
About two years ago, Shake Shack eliminated tip jars. The no-tipping policy now extends to many of Meyer’s other restaurants, including prominent ones in New York City. Meyer said while it has been challenging, it’s also gratifying to be able to pay workers above minimum-wage.
Hospitality is another key aspect of Meyer’s business models. He said the hospitality he felt growing up in St. Louis largely impacted how he wants to operate his restaurants.
“I loved growing up in St. Louis. I think it’s a big part of why our restaurants in New York were able to succeed,” Meyer said. “I think being able to add a warm welcome to really good food, I’ve got to credit St. Louis for that.”
Listen below to hear more about Meyer’s favorite places to eat while growing up in St. Louis:
St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary Edwards, Alex Heuer and Lara Hamdan give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.