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Email Feature: Shake Shack

Shake Shack sees strong potential in its licensed business

Sonic Drive-In is one of the largest fast food chains in the US, with over 3500 locations scattered across the country. However, they’re now facing competition from Shake Shack, the brainchild of Union Hospitality Group’s Danny Meyer. While Shake Shack has far fewer locations than Sonic, they’ve developed a cult following and are expanding rapidly into key markets. In fact, we’re about to get one right here in Nashville!

Since the opening is still a few months out, I thought I’d investigate how the two restaurants compete in another one of my favorite areas: email marketing. Both Sonic and Shake Shack have fairly robust email marketing programs, but who does it best in the inbox? Let’s find out. 



Shack Shack’s signup form sits at the bottom of their homepage and includes three fields: email address, name, and zip code. Usuallythat was a , bit much for an initial signup form (every field you add reduces signups by 25%, according to our friends at Privy), but since they actually explain how they’ll be using your information, it feels fine in this situation. 

After signing up, new recipients are greeted with this automated welcome email… 


Subject line: Welcome to the Shack Fam! 
Preheader text: This is the start of a beautiful friendship. 

This exemplifies exactly what a first-touch email should be. The email:

• Greets new subscribers with a warm, branded welcome. 
• Tells them exactly what to expect from future emails. 
• Offers an exclusive discount for joining their list. 

Then, after you’ve received this welcome, you’re thrown into their regular send cadence. Here are a few examples of the types of emails recipients can expect… 


Subject line: Give a Little, Get a Little 
Preheader text: Deck the halls with Shack. 

Shack Shack does a great job of making straight-up promotional emails feel engaging. For instance, this holiday campaign features an amazing GIF up top that grabs your attention and helps quickly convey the point of the message. It follows the same recipe as the rest of their emails, featuring a branded header, some sort of hero image, a headline, short copy, and a single CTA. Developing that sort of templatized system is a great way to scale your marketing across a lot of sends. 


Subject line: Penny for your thoughts?
Preheader text: Crew, we want to hear from you. 

While the concept here is good—audience feedback is an incredibly powerful asset—the messaging didn’t quite hit the mark. You see, I’ve never actually eaten at Shake Shack before… so their request to review a very specific menu item felt off.

Rather than mass blasting something like this out to your audience, brands should segment out only those who have purchased the item and send specifically to them. If you don’t have that data, don’t send the email until you find a way to gather it. Not only will it help you get more reliable feedback, you’ll avoid sending irrelevant messaging to your other subscribers. 


Subject line: All of Us Rising Together
Preheader text: Who run the world?

Since Shack Shack primarily sends promotional emails, I was pleasantly surprised to receive this email about International Women’s Day. It isn’t about sales or menu items: Instead, it’s a note from their CEO about empowering female leaders. It’s always nice to see a brand support a cause and— perhaps more importantly—not turn it into an excuse for a misguided sale (e.g. “Get a free drink in honor of women!”). 

Sometimes, it’s ok to send an email that has nothing to do with conversions. In fact, it’s a great way to build brand advocates and audience loyalty. 


Subject line: You Asked, We Listened
Preheader text: New and improved, friends.