So I came across a blog today that compared Shake Shack to In-N-Out Burger from an NYU law student from California. Unashamedly and incorrigibly biased (although qualified not to be), the blogger insists that In-N-Out burger is markedly superior to Shake Shack in every way. His entry can be found here. Now I'm not one to start flaming wars or what not with people I don't really know but this entry is an offense to all that is good and just with the world, so I decided to FAIRLY judge the two based on his "criteria" of excellence, with commentary on his judgments.
Now, my system will not be a winner take all, because a point system is obviously more fair in this regard, as a slightly marginal advantage in one category will be unfairly weighted against a huge advantage in another.
What's in a name? Branding, marketing, but beyond that an identity. In-N-Out has a moniker that describes what you will be doing at In-N-Out, which is simply, going In-N-Out of a burger place to eat and coming out. The name implies a succinct and thoughtless experience, albeit efficient, kind of like when a SWAT team comes into a drug bust and gets the bad guys out, ASAP.
The N in between the In and Out actions and the hyphens lends itself to a cute and catchy name, and definitely one that's easy to remember and spread around. But what intimacy does that lend itself really? We like this burger so much that we just want to eat it as quickly as possible and then GTFO? Ok, I guess.
I give the name In-N-Out 7 points.
Shake Shack is an interesting name. I do agree with the blogger that their shakes are not something I enjoy particularly, but I haven't really tried much of them, so I cannot accurately assess the quality of the shakes. What I do know is that it is definitely interchangeable with what I like to call it, "the SHACK". I mean when I tell someone I want to go to "the SHACK", they immediately know what I'm talking about. And aside from the fact that the so called informed blogger pulled the shack picture on his website from a Wikipedia page, shacks have multiple meanings, one of which is, "a room or similar enclosed structure for a particular person or use shack" according to Miriam-Webster. Misleading? Maybe not.
The alliteration and the catchy name itself has been enough to allure all classes of people in NYC, not just the fast food crowd, it has almost become a legend, even though it has only been around for 5 years. However, I do agree that the moniker is not as tight or smart as it could be.
I give the name Shake Shack 6 points.
It's true, Shake Shack has only two locations in Manhattan, and one in Citi Field, all of which usually run long lines. But when a restaurant is only 5 years old compared to 60, it's hard to really have that many locations, and sometimes excellence is in high demand but low supply.
That being said, I have been to plenty of In-N-Outs in LA, SF and Las Vegas, and I have to say that the lines aren't always a fun deal there. Sometimes the locations are crowded, with noisy children or what not, and even on a non-crowded day, it still takes a while for preparation for the food. It's not nearly as "fast" food as say, a McDonald's or a Burger King, it's more of a medium-speed food kind of place. And as far as travel goes, with LA traffic, good luck getting to a place when there isn't death traffic everywhere until late hours in the night.
I give In-N-Out Burger 6.5 points.
Shake Shack does have long lines. However, what the blogger FAILED to mention is that it has a Shack CAM readily available, so that you can snipe the times when you can find a short line. A good meal deserves a good hunt, IMO. Also, if you go really early or really late, the lines aren't long at all. And what really is a wait on the line in Madison Square Park? A time for intimacy with your friends in a nice area, a time to chat about the world, a time to not get so involved with the In-N-Out culture of our generation, etc. Oh yeah, they also have a B line that zooms you to the front if all you want is some custard or other dessert.
I give Shake Shack 4 points.
3. Menu Options
In and Out doesn't really lend itself to many choices, as you're really stuck with a burger and fries essentially. I guess it does have it's "hip" off the menu choices, like Animal Style or 3x3, etc. This reviewer even mentions that is has low menu choices as a con. Oh, and it also mentions that he once waited 45 minutes to get In-N-Out and never goes during peak hours, further clarifying its "convenience".
I give In-N-Out 3 points.
Shake Shack, now WHERE do we begin. There's the standard shack burger that's always an excellent choice, a shroom burger for vegetarians that I hear is excellent (personally not a fan of fungus), hot dogs, a new custard of the day . Did I mention they have beer, for those of you who enjoy a pleasant meal with a little relaxing brewsky on the side? Oh, and wine for all you who want to add a little romance to a already nice scenery in Madison Square Park.
I give Shake Shack 8 points.
Shake Shack does indeed cost more than In-N-Out. However, you're paying NYC prices, in the heart of Manhattan, so you're also paying for the experience, instead of some dinky random In-N-Out that's a clone of every other In-N-Out in California. And when you factor in that fast food places in busy locations of Manhattan are super priced as well, you see that the "huge" cost of Shake Shack is not really that "huge" at all, adjusted for NYC prices.
In-N-Out though does have advantage in being priced extremely low. A burger, fries and a coke will probably run you around 9 bucks at Shake Shack, where as at In-N-Out, adjusting for NYC prices, it'd probably be around 6 bucks by my estimation.
In-N-Out therefore gets 9 points, and Shake Shack gets 6. (See what I did there?)
I actually like In-N-Out Burgers. I probably ate it 3-4 times during a week stay in LA. Is it worth the time and effort to go to a place like this? Absolutely. Is it an experience to remember? Well, that's something different entirely.
The Animal Style thing is interesting to say the least, the combination of thousand island dressing and some sort of mayonnaise concoction does lend itself to an interesting flavor that is not really replicated. The quality of the food is definitely above regular fast food par. The fries however, are pretty nasty at In-N-Out, they're probably worse than most fast food places, IMO. They're just little stringy fries that don't really do much in terms of texture and quality, and are not really unique in any sort of way.
I give In-N-Out Burger 7 points, mainly due to the interesting burger.
When I first went to Shake Shack, I was skeptical. The whole waiting on line business seemed like a touristy thing to do. And trust me, I hate touristy stuff in NYC, nothing angers me more than seeing a bunch of Euro dudes taking a billion pictures when I'm trying to walk through the street. Ok some things anger me more, but that's for another post.
When I first got that Shake Shack burger, it was mildly akin to when Harold and Kumar go to White Castle and eat those 30 sliders, 5 fries and 4 large cherry cokes. Awesome. Soothing. Something that hits the spot when you're craving the ultimate burger. In a word (or three) sweet juicy justice. That combination of just enough greasiness in the taste with a touch of friedness on the side for the texture tripled with the convenient bun that is closed on one end so the juices don't fall into your hand, just does wonders for me. The special sauce that they have tops it off that can only be described as a bit tangy but warm flavored.
Oh and let's not forget the patented cheese on the cheese fries. I don't know how they make their cheese, but it's pretty much the best cheese on cheese fries this world has ever known. After I eat all the fries, sometimes I just scoop up the cheese and eat it itself. It's that good folks. The fries themselves have a nice harder and slightly crunchier texture to them
Dessert? Speak no more of the options. A lushious concrete jungle (my personal favorite) with bananas, fudge, and peanut butter concoction will gratify any sweet tooth from here to California.
I give Shake Shack a dominating 10 points.
These next two categories are pretty lame so I'm going to downgrade to only being worth 5 points.
6. Iconic Status
Is In-N-Out an icon? It is an undeniably well known franchise. But to claim that it represents all of California's well known highlights might be a stretch.
I'd say In-N-Out earns 4.5 points.
Shake Shack has already become a well known place in the 5 years of its existence. It was normally only supposed to be a small kiosk of food to spark the conservation of Madison Square Park. It helped transform MSP from a dangerous area to a well visited location. Yes, Shake Shack FIGHTS CRIME IN NYC. That's pretty much as iconic as anything New York, like the Ghostbusters or Spiderman. Not to mention it's already in Citi Field, a huge NY establishment.
Shake Shack earns 2 points in terms of iconicness.
7. Happiness effect
How happy is one when they munch on an In-N-Out burger? Well let's take a look at the blogger's evidence. Both pictures were taken in MSP, so one can conclude that In-N-Out was not a factor in either of the blogger's happiness because it doesn't exist in New York. His argument is pretty much facepalm fail (FPF) in that regard.
In all seriousness however, how happy are you when you wait patiently and at the end of the day, receive perfection as your reward? When you strive towards excellence, and when all is said and done, you are granted access to true burger ecstasy? I mean In-N-Out is a fine choice if you want to have a good and I suppose more convenient meal, but when it comes down to it, satisfaction is hard to obtain. I compare it to settling for that girl you might kind of like, instead of going the extra mile (or 3) for that girl that doesn't even exist in your dreams because she's so awesome.
I give In-N-Out 3 points.
I give Shake Shack 5 points.
In-N-Out: 40 points
Shake Shack: 41 points
So there you have it folks, Shake Shack wins by a slim margin. I admit, I was surprised when I saw the final numbers of how close it was, but I believe I have given both a fair assessment, and was not surprised that in the end, justice was served.
Anyone who disagrees with this pretty much sucks at life, IMO.