Some Like It... Shake Shack's Mike McGarry Talks Spice Appeal


There’s no question hot and spicy food is, well, hot in QSR. Now Shake Shack is joining in by relaunching its Hot Chicken sandwich for the fourth time, and a new “Hot Menu” -- both for a limited time nationwide.

The LTO menu features the Spicy Shackmeister Burger, Spicy Fries with Ranch Sauce and Spicy Cheese Fries with Ranch Sauce. Each item is dusted with Shake Shack’s signature spice blend.

Marketing Daily asked Shake Shack Vice President of Brand Marketing Mike McGarry about spice appeal.

Marketing Daily: Since this is the fourth return of the Hot Chicken sandwich, can you speak to the success of the previous three versions?

Mike McGarry: Since July 2017, when we first launched Hot Chicken, people have constantly been blowing up our feeds and DMs asking us to bring it back. It’s one of our most requested LTOs. The spice blend is the same one our culinary team developed for the first, second and third iterations of Hot Chicken. Our guests have proven to us they love it by visiting a Shack or ordering on the Shack app, so we are giving the people what they want.



Marketing Daily: Since hot items have been so successful for Shake Shack, any plans to keep them on the menu? Why or why not?

McGarry: For now, it’s going to stay where it is as an LTO. It’s a nice elevated but broad-appeal item that gives our guests who like some heat something to look forward to. But hey, if our guests start a petition, maybe we will oblige.

Marketing Daily: With other QSR chains also adding heat to their menus (Popeye's, Carl's Jr.), why do you think there's an uptick in spicy food items? Are tastes changing?

McGarry: There’s been a bigger appetite to try new flavors and combinations. Spicy food keeps becoming more and more delicious and interesting, where it’s not just about high heat levels, but also about craveable and intriguing flavors that go along with it….That’s key for us. It’s not novelty heat, it’s intentional heat to complement the rest of the build.

Marketing Daily: How are you marketing/promoting/advertising the limited-time hot items?

McGarry: Hot menu items are popping up more and more on our LTO calendar. The return of Hot Chicken is the exclamation point on the latest “Hot Streak.” We want to let people know that if you like heat, Shake Shack is the place to go to experience it in an elevated way.

With the “Hot Streak” campaign, we are borrowing a term typically used for sports, and we’re having some fun with it.

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