Shake Shack and Hopdoddy to compete for Houston’s taste buds.
Houston’s restaurants have made a name for themselves among the foodie crowds—Houston was named No. 1 on Travel and Leisure’s 2015 list of “America’s Best Food Cities”—but that doesn’t mean they can’t also dole out the classics. In the coming months, Houstonians will have two more options for good ol’ fashioned burgers and fries: Shake Shack, an American fast casual chain that started in New York City, and HopDoddy, a “burger bar” with roots in Austin, Texas. To excite your appetites, we’ll examine both brands using the 3 W’s from The Brand Map™—who these companies are, what they do, and who they do it for.
Originally a food cart inside Madison Square Park, Shake Shack has rapidly expanded since 2000 and now boasts more than sixty locations across North America, Europe, the Middle East, Australia, and Asia. Shake Shack is decidedly low-key with few frills and a focus on quality. Their cardboard trays and wax paper burger wrappers throwback to old-school roadside stops, but the corrugated steel and wood on their flagship storefront modernizes the look with stripped-down simplicity. Shake Shack’s signature font, Neutra, continues this combination of classic and minimal—inspired by mid-century architect Richard Neutra, this font has seen a huge surge in popularity, owing much to the fact that it adorns every Shake Shack building, napkin, and take-out bag. The New York Times referred to them as the “anti-chain-chain,” because they hardly spend any money or efforts on marketing, instead letting their products and services speak for themselves. They eschew the pre-cooked mentality of fast food giants, yet the price of their burgers is comparable to what you’d see at Whataburger. Shake Shack specializes in excellent ingredients like caramelized cocoa nibs or hazelnut brown butter streusel for their frozen treats, or burgers made from 100% antibiotic-free Angus beef, topped with Applewood-smoked bacon, and cherry peppers. They also offer regional specialties at each of their locations, themed to each city. In New York you can try the Wall-nut Street, vanilla custard mixed with chocolate truffle cookie dough, walnuts, and amarena cherries. Or if you’re a resident of the Windy City, you can order the Publican Dog, a sausage link from Publican Quality Meats flavored with garlic and white wine, wrapped in a hot dog bun before being dressed with two kinds of cheese and crispy, ale-marinated shallots.
While their ingredients seem fit for the gourmand in your friend group, Shake Shack is still easy going and democratic. Shake Shack is for the person who desire high-grade, whole-muscle, hormone-free Black Angus beef. Shake Shack is also for the person who isn’t afraid to admit that they’re okay with their fries coming from the freezer. In 2013, Shake Shack replaced their frozen crinkle-cut french fries with fresh cut ones. The customers spoke up and said they preferred the old ones, and by fall of 2014, the frozen fries were back. Shake Shack is not for the person with little time on their hands; because they are popular, and all of their food is made to order, the lines are notoriously long. Shake Shack’s Madison Square Park location even has a live cam to gauge how long the wait will be.
So where will Houstonians be waiting to try Shake Shack’s burgers? Shake Shack will be shacking up in the Galleria and seems well-positioned to cater to hungry mall-goers looking for a bit more quality in their food-court options. However, this begs the question: will Houstonians wanting to scratch their burger itch combat Galleria traffic and parking just to get their hands on a SmokeShack™?
Hopdoddy gets it playful name from ‘hops’, that magical flower at the heart of your favorite craft beers, and ‘doddy’, a local name for Angus cattle in Aberdeen, Scotland. After finding success with the Moonshine Grill and its relaxed down-home southern fare, Larry Foles, Guy Villavaso, Chuck Smith, and Larry Perdido wanted to create a counter-service cafe that served burgers tasty enough that parents would bring their kids there, rather than the other way around. While Hopdoddy also focuses on fresh, quality ingredients, its menu is more haute cuisine (for burgers) than Shake Shack’s, and features many organic and locally-sourced proteins, from tuna to duck to pork to a vegetarian-friendly hemp seed patty. With themed burgers like the K-Town Belly featuring pork belly and kimchi, or the Terlingua topped with chile con carne and Fritos, the menu is more adventurous than Shake Shack’s. And the design of the menu is as eclectic as its offerings—each item is differentiated with its own clever font. The use of distressed textures and old style letterpress type in its decor and advertising materials evokes an earthy, comfortable, natural feel appropriate for its organic fare.
Like Shake Shack, Hopdoddy is also known for lines that wrap around their modern, windowed facades, but their enthusiastic servers are happy to bring you a beer or milkshake while you wait to be seated. They consider themselves a burger bar, a term that refers to both their specialty cocktails as well as the more upscale experience than what you’ll find at a fast-casual joint. This is reflected in the location Hopdoddy has chosen to house their first burger bar in Houston— the swank River Oaks District, which is also home to luxury brands like Dior and Hermes. Hopdoddy’s location is primed as a lunch or dinner destination for shoppers and inner-loop locals alike, although it runs the risk of being overshadowed by neighboring restaurants like The Tuck Room, James Beard Award-winning chef Sherry Yard’s gasto-lounge and speakeasy. The River Oaks District location could easily elevate Hopdoddy’s unique fare, but it’s possible that the crowd working out at luxury fitness club Equinox and shopping at Dolce & Gabbana might not be in the mood for burgers, as classy as they may be. One sip of their nutella and chocolate pretzel milkshake could be enough to change anyone’s mind though, and Houstonians on the internet have already been clamoring in anticipation since the announcement.
While there is definitely some overlap in the brand identity of these two businesses, they have zeroed in on their three W’s in ways that distinguish them from the rest of the market. The cult-like following of these two businesses is a product of their ability to unite their quality-driven products with their atmosphere, spirit, and values. From the decor to the menu, they have found ways to tell their story and appeal to their audience. Now that we’ve whet your appetite, which of these two burger spots will you be trying out first?
Image Credit: Shake Shack – https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c2/Shake_Shack_Madison_Square.jpg, http://cdn2.business2community.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/shackburger13.jpg13.jpg; Hopdoddy – https://consciouscravings.files.wordpress.com/2012/07/hopdoddy.jpg, http://images.onset.freedom.com/ocregister/nlbp2c-b88358755z.120150316135941000glm8i95s.10.jpg