This week marks exactly one year since US burger brand Shake Shack opened in London's Covent Garden. Culinary director Mark Rosati talks to Hannah Thompson about Londoners' taste for custard and sourcing the perfect Cumberland sausage.
How is Shake Shack doing in the UK these days?
We were invited to do Taste of London, alongside many fine-dining restaurants, and that's exactly what we aimed to do; use the same quality ingredients as a fine-dining restaurant, but be more accessible and keep prices low.
How many customers do you serve in Covent Garden?
In terms of burgers, we sell 2,000-3,000 a day - it's busy! Covent Garden attracts a lot of tourism, but our goal was to listen to the community. We don't want Shake Shack to be a fast food place. We always try to create somewhere for people to come with their friends, sit down and relax.
Did you change the menu to fit the new market?
I'm never quite sure what to do at first in a new city and I'm OK with that. The way to do it is to spend time in the city and go to the restaurants and the markets. That's how I started to learn the flavours that had a connection with London and the UK.
Our beef blend is from 100% Scotch-certified beef from Aberdeen and our fries are made in the UK - the custard mixes, too. We use the St John Bakery and chocolate from Paul A Young, who is one of the finest chocolate makers in Europe. It has the Shake Shack DNA but is a little more bespoke.
Any sourcing challenges?
One of the more difficult things was the sausage. We have a Cumberland sausage that's only available in the London Shake Shack. We wanted to pay homage to the UK's history of pork sausages, so I asked restaurants and butchers and we had sausage tastingsâ¦ I thought, I can't taste any more sausages! But we now use all-pork sausages from Sillfield Farm in Cumbria.
How does the average spend in London compare with the US?
They spend a little more in the UK, because people buy frozen custard as well as the standard burger and fries. London took to the custard straight away - it's consistently popular.
You help put together the calendar for the custard. How many flavours are there a year?
We have a couple of different custard programmes we use around the world, and every month we refresh all those flavours. We have about 70 to 80 flavours and repeat them throughout the year. My favourite is the Union Shack, which is based on the Shack Attack we have in Madison Gardens [the first ever Shake Shack]. Developing the new custards is one of my favourite parts of the job.
Do you have plans to open more in London and the UK?
Definitely. We want to get people understanding our brand and what we do, and we put so much into creating relationships in London that we want to continue.