New York City restaurateur talks Shake Shack success, meatless craze

The New York City restaurateur behind Shake Shack and Union Square Hospitality Group told FOX Business he’s keeping a close watch on the alternative meat craze.

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Danny Meyer, CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group, said he has learned of an alternative to the meatless option where lab-grown beef is being created from cells produced in Israel.

“I think it’s a fascinating thing to keep our eyes on, and we are,” he said during an interview with on “Maria Bartromo’s Wall Street” Friday. “I’ve read about somebody in Israel who is actually creating meat in a lab using a Petri dish to actually grow out meat cells which will actually become real meat, it’s just that you will not have had to raise and slaughter an animal in order to do it.”

Meyer once considered looking into investing in alternative meat companies, but ultimately decided against it. He said the meatless ingredients were presented to the chefs at his fine dining restaurants -- including Gramercy Tavern, The Modern, and the Union Square Café -- and the chefs said they would rather cook vegetables that were bought from the farmers' market instead of creating substitute for meat.

“It put us in a position where we said, ‘Well, it’s kind of hard to back a company that our own colleague wouldn’t use themselves.’  Did we miss out on a big payday? Probably, but that’ll be the case sometimes,” Meyer said.

And that missed payday opportunity comes in the form of Beyond Meat. The stock had a huge quarter and reported better than expected earnings.

TickerSecurityLastChangeChange %
SHAKSHAKE SHACK INC57.57-1.09-1.86%
BYNDBEYOND MEAT INC.74.05-2.17-2.85%

But the Shake Shack founder has built a successful business model that encompasses 12 full service restaurants and another 30 different kinds of concept eateries in sporting venues, museums, cultural institutions and airports. Meyer also has stakes in various companies where he predicted great growth and value, including vegetable meal companies like Tender Greens, Resy, Olo and Sweetgreen.

He revolutionized restaurant industry by creating a dining experience that prioritizes quality and service. That success enabled Meyer to take Shake Shack public in 2015.

“The reason that we took Shake Shack public was that we needed growth capital at that very, very, moment and we looked at the various alternatives,” he said. “At that point, Shake Shack had had exactly one infusion of private equity capital, and it was $20 million.”

Meyer also said that going public created an opportunity for the establishment to compensate its staff members.

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The restaurateur’s business acumen revolves around a strategy that invests in businesses who truly understand that people want the experience of being with other people, Meyer said -- and that experience could come in the form of a restaurant or a piece of technology.

“I think that we’re in a period in our lives right now where food as an experience and brings people together is really antidote to a lot of the disconnection that quite frankly apps have caused,” he told FOX Business.