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Shake Shack: “Because of moments like these, I want to stay here”

By Wantedly Hong Kong

If you had been to Shake Shack, whether at the IFC or Pacific Place, taking selfies under the “chillax” vibe is one of the must-dos. It’s always easy to enjoy their burgers but do you know how it’s like serving them? At this occasion, I’ve invited a few “front line” staff to give us an insider sneak peek.

▲ Team Member assemble! (from left) Miguel, Theresah, Enoch

Born in the Philippines, Ghana and Nigeria respectively, they are gathered in Hong Kong for new opportunities. One big reason for them to work at Shake Shack is its culture of being truly multi-cultural and yet harmonic at the same time.

Coming from a media studies background, Miguel moved to Hong Kong for a better future. He worked as a receptionist, customer service executive and even waiter, but only Shake Shack makes him stay.

“The dynamics in Shake Shack is so different from many other companies, here we quickly and genuinely become friends and family as we watch each other’s back every day. And this doesn’t happen just between colleagues, but us and customers as well,” says Miguel.

He also recalls: “You know, everyone sometimes just has a bad day and I asked Enoch say ‘hey, gimme a song.’ Then we simply sang and danced to ‘That’s What I Like’ while preparing all the food and stuff, suddenly all the staff and even the customers were singing and dancing! Because of moments like these, I want to stay here.”

Speaking of the 19-year-old Enoch, he was actually raised and had lived in Hong Kong for 13 years. The reason for his comeback is to study engineering and a part-time job always helps.

“I’ve tried a few part-time jobs throughout this year, like the operation assistant at the airport. Although I speak a bit of Cantonese, there are still a lot of people, like, looking down you, you know? And this never happens at Shake Shack,” he tells me.

▲ Theresah even received flowers from a frequent customer on last Valentine’s! (Photo Credit: Theresah)

“Since my husband finished his postgraduate studies and started working in Hong Kong, I decided to live here and make our family whole,” says Theresah. “After trying a few jobs in Hong Kong, only Shake Shack can give me such degree of joy and freedom. You can already tell how close we are, and there’re a lot of internal policies to make our lives much easier.”

For Theresah, since there are regular days when she has to take care of her children, Shake Shack helps her fix her day-off schedule instead of working different shifts. Therefore, she can balance work and life, no problem.

▲ After the Team Members, why don’t we talk to Hellen, the Cross Trainer?

Hellen was born in Hong Kong and raised in Brazil, where her parents run their own restaurant as she becomes interested in the F&B industry.

“A lot of people might find Shake Shack similar with other major competitors, yet what we are serving is called ‘fine causal’ – which means combing the food and service quality of fine dining, and the casual vibe of Shake Shack itself. That’s why I accepted Shake Shack’s offer,” she says.

Some might think that being headhunted immediately made Hellen the Cross Trainer, and that’s a big NO, as she answers: “Everyone has to start as a Team Member because you need to master all the skills required in different stations before you can actually train someone, such as the hot side, cold side, EXPO… This is what I like about Shake Shack, it’s not a place of hierarchy but ability.”

That’s why after working for almost a year at Shake Shack, she volunteered for promotion. All she did was passing the tests and became a Cross Trainer, voila!

(If you look at Hellen’s portrait again, you’ll notice the badges on her cap, which represents the tests she passed, just like the scouts.)

▲ Here’s another Cross Trainer, MJ. (You thought it’s because of Michael Jackson? It’s just the initials of her full name — Mary Jane!)

This is her 17th year in Hong Kong since her departure from the Philippines. During this whole period, Shake Shack is her “one and only”, why?

“It’s always exciting working here since so many things are happening at the same time: some sing, some dance, some switch working stations… It’s all about teamwork and family. You can have fun while working here but for my previous jobs, it’s all about getting things done and you simply feel like a robot,” she smiles.

▲ In the kitchen area, there’s a huge wall of notes with colleagues praising each other’s work!

Although it’s only been a year at Shake Shack, MJ was already given the chance to assist in Shake Shack’s openings in the Philippines. “Shake Shack was opening their very first branch in the Philippines and I went there for a month to train new team members, despite it was only my first year at Shake Shack,” she says.

For a lot of companies, it’s always the management being responsible for the company’s expansion, especially the international ones. Yet, instead of blindly assigning the management to “important” tasks, Shake Shack match the staff’s ability and background to specific occasions.

That’s why MJ is so thankful, and this experience makes her feel that she’s “still useful,” as she doesn’t only train new members in Hong Kong but also being able to contribute to her home country.

▲ William Lou – General Manager

At Shake Shack, there’s this core concept that everyone values most: “51%>49%”, as William explains, “49% represents the technical skills one learned in the past or we offer, which everyone is capable of acquiring. Yet, our focus is the 51%, which is the emotional skills. In a nutshell, it’s how you treat people, be it the customers or colleagues, you have to treat everyone with your heart.”

Although he’s the General Manager of Shake Shack Hong Kong, among all of his duties, it’s interesting that William enjoys moments visiting the stores most, why?

“Management is not about implementing the policies that I think are beneficial. Instead, I want to be down-to-earth and talk to them like friends do. Then you can give them what they truly need. Just like the half-full-time policy, two days on one day off, these solutions are based on the feedback from our staff members but not our guesses,” he says.

Hence, every time when William visits both branches, he talks to every colleague and “secretly” memorizes each of their names, interests, and even notices if they are injured.

You all might have heard of the saying: “a fish rots from the head down”. A company without great leaders would still fail even if they had the “perfect” philosophy, and perhaps Shake Shack is the exact counterexample to this.

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