The One Thing Sweetgreen, Shake Shack, and FoMu Have in Common

By: Nancy Chen

6 Minute Read

Nov 20, 2017

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Shake Shack Flickr Cc Lucas Richarz 689749 Edited

chef collab

What do a healthy salad chain, a beloved fast casual burger empire, and a vegan ice cream store have in common?

More than you would think. Other than delivering delicious, fast, and fresh food to their customers, they also partner with local celebrity chefs to create special menu items. This allows the restaurants to hyper-localize their marketing, giving existing customers a reason to return and drawing in new customers from those who are fans of the chef's restaurants.

But exactly how much of an impact does partnering with local chefs have for these restaurants? Let's discuss.


Sweetgreen is the master of celebrity chef partnerships. This fast casual salad chain started in DC and has expanded to Los Angeles, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and more. They have worked with influential chefs in these specific, high market value locations to develop new bowls that launch for a limited time. Capitalizing on Boston's love of local products and chefs, FoMu launched a local chef collaboration series in July 2016. Up until November, they featured a flavor developed by a local chef every month.

This year, they partnered with Michael Solomonov to deliver a "Zahav bowl" (named after Solomonov's restaurant) to their Philly locations.

They also paid homage to their DC roots by developing a bowl with DC chef Erik Bruner-Yang.

Also, this year was their Boston collaboration with Ken Oringer — the "Toro Bowl," named after Oringer's tapas restaurant. They took this an extra step further and launched it with an influencer event, where select influencers were invited to the South End location for a sneak peek tasting and tapas from Toro.

Some of their other previous collaborations included:

Shake Shack

If you thought it was impressive that sweetgreen collaborates with fine dining chefs, take a look at Shake Shack. Like sweetgreen, Shake Shack has featured a Boston-specific special offering from Jamie Bissonette and Ken Oringer of Coppa, called the "Coppa Burger."

They've also taken it above and beyond and featured international chefs like Mingoo Kang from Mingles in Seoul, Korea.

In Japan, they collaborated with chef Zaiyu Hasegawa from the two Michelin-starred restaurant Jimbocho Den. The burger was dubbed the "DEN Shack" and only available in Japan, though Shake Shack brought it to the Madison Square Park location for a single day, ensuing in massive hype (note the 4.7K+ total likes and comments).


Born and bred in the Greater Boston area, FoMu offers plant-based ice cream in brick-and-mortar and popup locations.

Capitalizing on Boston's love of local products and chefs, FoMu launched a local chef collaboration series in July 2016. Up until November, they featured a flavor developed by a local chef every month.

Key Takeaway

If you ever need menu inspiration, try seeing which local chefs you could collaborate with in your community. Not only does this give you a wider customer market by drawing in the chef's most loyal fans, it also gives you an opportunity to attract your current customers with a limited-time specialty item. This can create another touchpoint and give them incentive to return to your restaurant.

Doing something great in your restaurant that you want the world to know about?

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