Video Transcript

00:12 Scott Gerber: It took 10 years to go from A to B, C, D, E, F, etcetera. Why 10 years and what did you need to learn before you were ready to open number two?

00:23 Danny Meyer: Well, I took the 10 years because I completely associated expansion with the kinds of perils that my dad got his own business into before he went bankrupt. And what I learned during those 10 years were lessons that begin with, [a], I'm not an impostor. I think it took me a lot of years to feel like I actually belonged in this business. I think one thing that marks a lot of successful entrepreneurs is that they benchmark themselves against mentors. Maybe people they have never met or will never meet. They've read about people in their industry and those people are like mountains. And when you look up to a mountain, the last thing you think about is that, one day, you might be as tall as that mountain. And it took me a good decade to get to the point where I've said, "I'm not just a complete neophyte who doesn't belong here, all of our successes have not just been luck", and to get to the point where I said, "This actually could be a good career for me." It took a whole decade to get there.

01:33 Gerber: You've been around in the restaurant business for over two decades, with restaurants that have done nothing but maintain, if not, excel beyond their initial roots. What are the secrets to success in that time period that have allowed you to scale with efficiency, whereas many businesses ultimately can't even make it to their second venue?

01:50 Meyer: Authenticity. And that's something that I think is really, really important. One of the things that I can't tell you how excited we are in my company is, growing Shake Shack, and now growing Blue Smoke. For years, and years, and years, we did one restaurant at a time, 10 years between number one and number two, four years between number two and three, and to this day, we can really only do a one-of-a-kind restaurant every three years or so because it's like writing a novel, and you really have to take time to research it, and plan it, and conceive it, and raise money for it, and build it, and hire for it and learn how to use it. So, we can't do those all that often, but one of the things that we're loving, I'll use Shake Shack as an example, is a motto that we believe which is that, "The bigger we get, the smaller we need to act." And then you say, "Well, how is that possible with a chain? Because aren't they antithetical to one another?" And one of the things we're having a great time doing with Shake Shack as an example, is to say, "Here are the things which will taste the same no matter where you go, whether you're in Philadelphia, or Miami Beach, or Washington DC, or New Haven, Connecticut, or the Theater District, or Madison Square Park, or Battery Park City, and here are the things that are going to feel very, very, very much authentic to where you are."

03:22 Meyer: And so we look for opportunities with each Shake Shack, both in terms of how we build it and design it, as well as some of the menu items, to root you exactly where in the world you are. And as a result of that, we think we can break new ground and scale something, where all the things that need to be consistent, are consistent. "How does the burger taste?" That better be consistent. "How long did I wait once I place my order?" That better be consistent. "How was I greeted and treated by the people working there?" That better be consistent. But, "What does the place look like? Does it feel like it's of its community? Or does it feel like something that was imposed upon a community? Are there specialties on the menu? Where did you source the ingredients?" We got a New Haven, and source beer from someone in New Haven; or we go to West Port, and source mix-ins from someone in West Port, or go to Brooklyn and source chocolate from someone in Brooklyn. What starts to happen is the place feels like where it is. We just opened in New Haven and we used reclaimed wood in all of our restaurants, but the reclaimed wood in New Haven came from the original Yale Bowl, the bleacher seats. That type of thing makes a place have terroir.

04:41 Gerber: Can it be a limitless, in theory, of how you can scale this sort of restaurant? Because it does seem to me, again, if you look at the history of restaurants and chains, very few break out compared to those that try. But, again, it seems to me that you are of the mind that you can scale this to a degree that it wouldn't matter if it was 10, 20, or 100. Is that possible?

05:01 Meyer: It's definitely impossible. I think the way we go about doing it means it's gonna be a slower growth, and based on my early experience at Union Square Cafe, if I could wait 10 years to open a second restaurant, I don't really care if this year we're only gonna open six whereas some other chain is gonna open 26. It doesn't matter, because what we're really going for is excellence and authenticity.