The famous Shake Shack is looking to open its doors with a flagship restaurant here in Toronto in 2024. Earlier this year, Osmington Inc. and Harlo Entertainment Inc, two private investment firms based in Toronto, announced the arrival of this fast-food giant. The much-loved US restaurant has been looking to set up business in Canada for quite a while. If you recall they did a pop-up at the now shuttered Momofuku in 2017 that saw epic lines. The new Toronto location will be the first of many. News has it, they plan to open an additional 35 locations across the country by 2035.
But is there enough room for yet another QSR chain in a market that already seems saturated?
We already have our fair share of American restaurants established here in Canada. Most of them are so established we don’t even think of them as imports, but mainstays. We’re talking McDonald’s, Subway, Dominos, Wendy’s, KFC, Burger King etc. Even more recent arrivals from down south also seem to be thriving; Five Guys, Chipotle Mexican Grill and the infamous Chick-fil-A. But none of them come close to Shake Shack’s allure.
New York-based Shake Shack success story is impressive – they currently have over 400 locations worldwide. 290 of their restaurants can be found across the US, and 150 internationally, including London, Dubai, Mexico City, Tokyo, Seoul and Shanghai. That’s a far cry from their humble beginnings operating out of a single hotdog cart in Madison Square Park in 2001.
Danny Meyer was best known for his incredibly successful fine dining restaurants, Gramercy Tavern and Union Square Café. No one expected him to try his hand at fast food. But he got tired of people saying that his enlightened hospitality practices only applied to upscale restaurants. As he told the Wharton School earlier this year, in 2001 he was approached about opening a hot dog cart as part of an art installation in Madison Square Park. He jumped at the chance, choosing to make Chicago-style hotdogs with a choice of eight classic toppings. “My colleagues looked at me like I was crazy,” he recalled. “I wanted to see if we could infuse a hot dog cart with hospitality…and we had lines around the corner. I had no idea it would turn into a business, a public company, or an international company.”
Currently, the location of their new flagship restaurant in Toronto hasn’t been disclosed, but you’d expect it to be somewhere with great visibility and footfall opportunity. Shake Shack’s menu offerings in Canada haven’t been revealed yet either, though it’s been suggested that the familiar and much-loved menu items will sit alongside some Canada-exclusive items too.
Shake Shack’s imminent step into Canada is a positive indicator the fast-food market remains buoyant and there is still space and opportunities for newcomers. Recent statistics back this up, with the NPD Group releasing data showing that visits to fast food restaurants in Canada were up 9% in 2022. A&W has been here since 1956 and McDonald’s in 1967. Of course, Shake Shack has no equal, coming as it does from one of the most influential restaurateurs in recent history and certainly one of the greatest minds in hospitality. It’s fitting that the flagship will open its doors in the country’s largest and most exciting city. Seeing as we’re also a city that loves to lineup, it looks to be a perfect match.
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