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Five Things Danny Meyer Needs to Know About LA’s Burger Scene

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What to expect in 2016.

Shake Shack at 86th and Lexington
Shake Shack at 86th and Lexington

So Danny Meyer has finally listened to public outcry and decided to drop a West Hollywood Shake Shack on Los Angeles? Wonderful. Now listen up.

Despite being one of the most popular burger chains yet to hit L.A., this new location may not immediately be the slam dunk it seems, thanks to what could be some traffic / pedestrian access woes along that stretch of Santa Monica Boulevard. Add in some serious in-state burger loyalty and the city's penchant for going gluten-free, and all of a sudden Shake Shack seems like it might need an assist before scoring with the locals.

Believe it or not, Meyer might still have a thing or two to learn about burgers on the West Coast.

Do not underestimate the drive-thru: Yes your CEO Randy Garutti has said many times that he "will never do a drive-through," but isn’t this the time to truly think big? Especially with tough parking and what is essentially a bisected two lane commuter highway out front? Walkable, this intersection ain’t, so why not let Angelenos do what they do best? Sit in their cars.

Don’t be afraid to do a little marketing: L.A. is a big place, and it’s awfully spread out. There’s a better than average chance that many of L.A.’s diners have still never heard of you, IPO and all. Yes, there will be a flood of early interest and probably a steady flow of tourist dollars, but don’t be shy about reaching out to some of L.A.’s other communities. After all, you’ve already got pretty stiff burger competition in places like South L.A.

Better know your gluten-free stuff: Much like In-n-Out, Shake Shack will happily wrap your burger in a wide lettuce leaf, protein-style, should you so choose. Plan for that option to get used a lot. Luckily, California has been growing lots of Shake Shack’s produce for years already, so finding enough lettuce shouldn’t be an issue.

We do love our In-n-Out: Expect a lot of haters, especially from the diehard In-n-Out camp. California created the fast food burger category from scratch, and for lots of people, they’ll be damned if some East Coast competition is going to keep them from the nearest double-double. Five Guys is a great example: arrived to much fanfare and immediately dropped a few different locations. It’s still relatively popular, but doesn’t inspire the same kind of fandom as those classic crossed palm trees do.

Watch those prices: L.A. is a price-sensitive place, believe it or not. Yes, your burgers are all-natural Angus beef and don’t contain hormones or antibiotics, but just know that Angelenos get sensitive around the $10 mark, so be on the lookout for a few 1-star Yelp reviews based solely on the bottom line. Perhaps it's the proliferation of the $1 taco, for better or worse.

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