Shake Shack will come to New Haven this fall as part of the New York-based burger joint’s efforts to reach out to college campuses and expand its brand.
Scheduled to open at 986 Chapel St. — across from the New Haven Green — Shake Shack’s move to New Haven is the company’s first venture to a location near a university, said Danny Meyer, CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group, a corporation that owns Shake Shack and other restaurants. Though Meyer said he considered expanding to Cambridge, Mass., he said he decided to open a location in New Haven instead because of the city’s “amazing food culture” and local business atmosphere he said distinguished it from other Ivy League towns.
“New Haven is a city that we find fascinating because it seems like Yale and other members of the community have done so much to really build a renaissance with culture, with art and with commerce, and that’s something that we love,” Meyer said. “We really want to make Shake Shack feel like it’s part of New Haven and part of Yale — not something imposed upon either of those.”
He added that he had “secondary, selfish reasons” to expand to New Haven since it gives him an additional excuse to see his daughter, who is a freshman at Yale.
Shake Shack’s new location is owned by University Properties, the University’s real estate management arm. Director of University Properties Abigail Rider said in a Thursday press release that the new restaurant would be an “excellent addition” to New Haven’s dining options.
Though New Haven has a larger number of local restaurants than national chains, Meyer said he expects Shake Shack to connect with the New Haven community and integrate well into the city.
“We aspire to be the anti-chain chain,” he said. “We are a company that believes in acting smaller as we get larger. The people who run the Shack are responsible for really becoming part of their community and connecting to causes that are important to that community, which we definitely want to do in New Haven.”
He said the New Haven Shake Shack would “look unlike any shack we’ve ever opened,” adding that his team would work to make the restaurant’s physical layout fit New Haven’s architecture and cultural history. Meyer added that Shake Shack is considering installing solar panels to promote the restaurant’s energy efficiency.
Meyer said Shake Shack is not a franchise company and that each restaurant would hire locally. He said he hoped some Yale students would consider working at the new location, adding that the New Haven store would name some menu items after Yale and New Haven traditions.
The New Haven location will be the company’s second burger joint in Connecticut. Shake Shack already has a restaurant in Westport, Conn., which opened last summer. Though Meyer said he plans to establish six new locations this year, he said Shake Shack is still a “tiny national chain” relative to similar brands like Five Guys Burgers and Fries.
Shake Shack’s arrival in New Haven follows that of other national corporations such as Apple, which opened a store on Broadway last September.
Erin Guild, manager of Claire’s Corner Copia on Chapel Street, said she has noticed a proliferation of chain stores and restaurants in New Haven in her 10 years living in the city.
“Yale’s taken over more and more of the properties downtown, and they’ve had a tendency to bring in chains instead of independent retailers,” Guild said. “Personally, I think [these businesses] make New Haven lose some of its character.”
Mira Horsky, a night supervisor at Blue State Coffee on Wall Street, added that independent businesses have a “personal atmosphere” and “distinct style” that chain stores often cannot match.
Shake Shack was founded in 2004 in New York City.