Business / Corporate

First Shake Shack in Asia opens to long lines in Tokyo

by Kazuaki Nagata

Staff Writer

Throwing itself among tough competition, U.S.-based hamburger restaurant chain Shake Shack Inc. opened its first burger outlet in Japan on Friday.

The event attracted about 400 customers, who formed a long line outside as they waited for it to open at 11 a.m.

The restaurant is located on the famous ginkgo tree-lined avenue at Meiji Jingu Gaien park, in Minato Ward.

Shake Shack CEO Randy Garutti said the crowd was possibly the biggest turnout ever for the company.

“I can’t believe it. I woke up this morning and said to myself, ‘I wonder if anyone would be there,’ ” he said.

The people at the head of the line said they had been waiting there since Thursday night.

Satoshi Onishi, a 36-year-old businessman from Nagoya, said he came to the opening because his business trip to Tokyo coincided with the event. He began waiting in line at around 10:30 a.m. and was also surprised by the large turnout.

“Today is a weekday, so I didn’t expect to see so many people,” he said, adding he learned about Shake Shack on a TV news program a few days ago.

After seeing the menu, he decided Shake Shack must be a different beast from other fast food chains, as he found no sets, Onishi said.

Competition among burger eateries is fierce in Tokyo, with its myriad fast food chains and gourmet burger restaurants all locking horns for a share of the market.

Shake Shack is apparently positioning itself somewhere between fast food chains and “gourmet” outlets.

Burgers on the menu range in price from ¥580 to ¥1,230, while hot dogs, french fries and shakes can be had for ¥500 to ¥700. The restaurant also serves beer and wine.

Hamburgers are priced at somewhere between ¥1,000 and ¥1,500 at other restaurants, which regard themselves as gourmet, while lower-range players offer them at ¥500 or less.

Garutti said he is “confident” that Shake Shack will survive the competition, saying it is not a fast food restaurant, and that the first outlet in Japan, which is an open-cafe design, offers a great eatery experience.

Launched in New York in 2004, Shake Shack now operates 79 stores in nine other countries including England, Turkey and Dubai.

The Tokyo outlet is Shake Shack’s first venture in Asia.

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