Home Asides Zocalo shutter paves way for GCT Shake Shack

Zocalo shutter paves way for GCT Shake Shack

by Benjamin Kabak

The ongoing saga of the Grand Central Shake Shack has reached an end as Zocalo, the overpriced and decidedly mediocre restaurant, closed at end of April paving the way for Shake Shack to open, Crain’s New York reports today. After numerous legal challenges that failed and a bankruptcy declaration last fall, Zocalo and its owners decided to comply with a vacate order set to come due on April 30, and now Danny Meyer’s burger chain will move in.

For the MTA, this move is a boost to the money it draws in from Grand Central’s lower level food market spaces. Zocalo had been paying a minimum rent of $336,698 per year while Shake Shack’s lease starts at $435,000 a year with escalators to $567,000 by year ten. Meyer’s group will also pay a percentage of gross sales to the agency. “We are pleased to be able to move forward at last with our ongoing effort to re-bid the retail spaces in Grand Central,” an MTA spokesman said to Crain’s. “Doing so in a regularized, periodic way ensures that the public receives the maximum benefit for this valuable retail space.”

Say what you will about Shake Shack’s food — and plenty of people have plenty of opinions on those burgers and fries — but this place will mint money in the food court at Grand Central.

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Bolwerk May 8, 2013 - 2:10 pm

Well, so much for GCT’s position on demanding only high-end retail.

Benjamin Kabak May 8, 2013 - 2:11 pm

Shake Shack is considered high end retail, especially at the rents they’re willing to pay.

Bolwerk May 8, 2013 - 3:16 pm

I was being facetious, but I can’t for the life of me see how the food there is much better than other fast food. They’re basically classier, and only because people perceived to be in a higher social class go.

It’s a clever business model.

Older and Wiser May 8, 2013 - 5:30 pm

I disagree. Their food is great. What’s not so great is that they aren’t nearly as fast as a real fast food place ought to be. No fun standing around waiting while they prepare each order individually.

SEAN May 8, 2013 - 7:53 pm

I rather have them take their time & cook the food right than rush it out & not have it the way I want it.

tacony palmyra May 9, 2013 - 1:52 pm

The wait time difference between Shake Shack and McDonald’s isn’t that extreme anymore. McDonald’s doesn’t just have stacks of burgers sitting in tin foil under heat lamps all day the way they used to. They’ve significantly diversified their menu and offer a wide array of products these days, and service time has definitely slowed because of it. Check out any current McDonald’s in Manhattan and I’d be hard pressed to be able to get in and out in less than 10 minutes. You order, pay, get your receipt, and stand there for a while as they put your food together.

The days when the big 3 fast food chains would give you the burger and fries as soon as you pay are long gone. The only places you still see that old school model are generally the highway rest stop locations that offer a limited menu.

Alon Levy May 8, 2013 - 7:34 pm

I guess they’re supposed to be a better burger-style chain, but I don’t see this personally. Their food is edible, which I’d peg as better than McDonald’s and Burger King and worse than Better Burgers Company and BBC-level non-burger places like Chipotle and Quiznos.

SEAN May 8, 2013 - 7:47 pm

Shake Shack isn’t bad at all, but I prefer Bobby’s Burger Pallace & The Counter. Please don’t get me started on 5 Guys as there burgers are too greesy, but the fries are good though.

Bolwerk May 8, 2013 - 10:50 pm

Same. I put them between lower-quality fast food and a typical Irish pub fare burger.

I prefer to eat out for food I can’t easily make myself. A burger is easy. If I’m eating a burger out, it better be orgasmic. Or I better be hungover. :-\

SHAKE SHACK May 8, 2013 - 4:18 pm


Jerrold May 8, 2013 - 6:38 pm

What about the Two Boots pizzeria down there?
They have good pizza, and so I don’t think it matters whether or not they are “high-end retail”.

Benjamin Kabak May 8, 2013 - 6:39 pm

Considering the array of crappy food court types down there, picking on the gourmet pizza place is an odd decision.

Alon Levy May 8, 2013 - 7:34 pm

New Yorkers expect more of pizza. It’s a bit like how the human rights standards for first-world countries are higher than for third-world countries.

Bolwerk May 8, 2013 - 10:47 pm

Wait, did I miss a joke, or is Two Boots actually good?

(Never tried it, so serious question.)

q May 9, 2013 - 12:10 am

It’s actually awesome, although a couple times I’ve gotten sub-par (for Two Boots) pizza from the GCT location.

Russell May 8, 2013 - 7:16 pm

Oh no!! I liked Zocalo.

SEAN May 8, 2013 - 7:59 pm

Well as the old saying goes, when you got to Zocalo, you got to zocalo. LOL

Nick Ober May 8, 2013 - 9:48 pm

Zocalo wasn’t stellar but I’m disappointed to see a chain restaurant — albeit a local one — take the space. I generally like Shake Shack but a space at Grand Central should warrant a more unique dining offering that you can’t find elsewhere.

Biebs May 8, 2013 - 11:26 pm

Whenever I see something like “Meyer’s group will also pay a percentage of gross sales to the agency.”

I’m reminded of a conversation on The Simpsons

Newspaper Tour Guide : …And each paper contains a certain percentage of recycled paper.
Lisa: What percentage is that?
Newspaper Tour Guide: Zero. Zero is a percent, isn’t it?

Alon Levy May 9, 2013 - 5:20 am

“I’m in shape. Round is a shape.”

John-2 May 9, 2013 - 12:46 am

They put a Five Guys in Nationals Park when they got their new stadium five years ago, but took it out last year, in part because the customer flow (i.e.- glacial) due to the way the store prepared its burgers and fries wasn’t conducive to watching a baseball game, unless you placed your order a half hour before game time.

Shake Shack could have a similar problem, since it’s service isn’t really fast food, in the way the other lower level places are fast food (Zocalo didn’t market itself as fast food, so if you went in there it was under the assumption your train wasn’t leaving 20 minutes from now). The new store will probably still do well with the lunchtime crowd, but PM rush riders thinking they’re going to get a quick bite before the ride home make end up like the Nats’ fans on the Five Guys line in having to rebudget their time.

Jim D. May 10, 2013 - 8:48 am

I never sat down to eat at Zocalo, but I did have their sandwiches on numerous occasions. The cuban sandwich and the steak sandwich were pretty good. Shake Shack is good but it’s also massively overrated, IMO, and I agree with other commenters that their business model may pose a problem at GCT.

Jerrold May 10, 2013 - 10:36 pm

Not everybody in GCT is in a rush to catch a train.
What about people who have just gotten OFF a train
(NOT in the morning rush hour), and now want to have their lunch or supper, whatever, before going to wherever they’re going?


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