Shake Shack Menu Items The Staff Won't Even Eat

Shake Shack food lined up
Shake Shack food lined up - Ant Dm/Getty Images

Ah, Shake Shack — the fast-casual restaurant chain that offers food that's as fun to eat as the company's name is to say. Founded in 2001, the franchise began as a single hot dog cart in Madison Square Park in New York City, as a pop-up for fundraising purposes. However, instead of stopping upon the end of its short-term goal, Shake Shack stuck around and expanded, growing year by year until it developed into a restaurant powerhouse with well over 400 locations around the world.

There is no shortage of positive buzz for the chain's beloved smash burgers, frozen custard, shakes, lemonades, cheese fries, hot dogs, fried chicken, and yet more items on its extensive menu. However, according to online comments from those working behind the scenes, a few of these items may not taste as good as they look. Weird aftertastes and overly expensive items are one thing, but some Shake Shack employees had admitted to staff mistakes that might be hazardous to those with allergies or other dietary restrictions. Here's a list of menu items that many staff members won't even order.

Read more: McDonald's Menu Items That Even The Staff Won't Eat

Iced Tea

Shake Shack iced tea
Shake Shack iced tea - Shake Shack

Because a nice cold beverage pairs perfectly with a hot, savory burger, Shake Shack offers a wide array of chilled drinks to customers. One of these is its Harney & Sons Organic Iced Tea, which is brewed fresh daily -- but apparently this practice doesn't guarantee quality. While we would all love to receive a perfectly delicious and refreshing cup every time, online buzz around the drink warns that this isn't always the case.

On a Reddit thread in r/shakeshack, titled "Any managers or employees understand the iced tea quality issue?", one confused consumer described their puzzling experiences at multiple Shake Shack locations. They said that the flavor of the company's iced tea was akin to wood chips or cardboard — overall, extremely off-putting. One replier (a self-professed former employee of Shake Shack) surmised that the bizarre taste could stem from improper equipment cleaning practices; namely, the use of an overly powerful sanitizing solution.

A bitter flavor in Shake Shack's tea has also been reported by consumers on blogs and other online platforms, so it appears this Reddit user was not alone. Whether or not overzealous cleaning is truly to blame for this off-putting flavor, we can't be sure, but it's worth bearing in mind before you order tea at the Shack.

Non-Dairy Chocolate Shake

Milkshakes from Shake Shack
Milkshakes from Shake Shack - Facebook / Shake Shack

Shake Shack's frozen custard milkshakes are one of its biggest claims to fame, but for a long time, those who avoid dairy were fresh out of luck when hoping to try one. That is, until the Non-Dairy Chocolate Shake came around. While vegans or the lactose intolerant may not be able to try a Cookies and Cream, Strawberry, or Vanilla & Chocolate version, this new shake seemed like a great solution... or is it?

Shake Shack's plant-based custard beverage is made with the milk alternative NotMilk. At least, it's supposed to be. One vegan consumer took to Reddit to question why the dairy-free beverage was still giving them stomach discomfort, and in reply, a self-declared employee let slip that the drink might not be prepared with the most care. "They are vegan but [...] it's entirely possible that they accidentally used normal milk instead of the vegan milk," they wrote of the new shakes. "I work at a Shake Shack and have done it multiple times (usually I catch it)". Yikes.

While the Non-Dairy Chocolate Shake is safe for dairy-avoidant folks if prepared correctly, this potential hiccup could make it dangerous for those with allergies. You might just want to make your own dairy-free shake at home, where you can have absolute control over what goes into it.


Bacon burger from Shake Shack
Bacon burger from Shake Shack - Scott Olson/Getty Images

Complaints about the bacon served with Shake Shack's cheese fries and burgers can be seen all over Reddit. "The bacon at Shake Shack is horrible," reads the title of one of these gloomy posts on the company's subreddit, in which the original poster refers to the pork strips as "flimsy" and "gross." Why is Shake Shack, which produces such mouth-watering beef burgers and other items, the target of such negativity regarding a beloved food? Well, perhaps an employee admission from Reddit can make sense of it.

According to some self-proclaimed Shake Shack employees, the chain's bacon is pre-cooked, making it safe to consume right out of the package. This means the strips require a very short amount of time on the grill. During lunch or dinner rush when the orders are pouring in, it's highly possible that employees have to hurry bacon off of the griddle before it can achieve that perfect, crispy texture -- thus, the wobbly and limp quality that some consumers complain about.

Hopefully, when you order your next bacon burger from the chain, you get a few strips that were left on long enough to achieve crispy perfection. If not, maybe your love of these coveted salty pork strips is all-encompassing enough to look past imperfections.

Sunset Lemonade

Hands holding Shake Shack lemonades
Hands holding Shake Shack lemonades - Facebook / Shake Shack

Is there a beverage with a more attractive name than Sunset Lemonade? We aren't sure. This luxurious-sounding Shake Shack drink is made with strawberry juice, lemon juice, the chain's in-house lemonade, and orange zest. These ingredients combine to create a refreshing chilled beverage designed to transport the drinker to a seaside paradise — when made correctly, that is.

There's no doubt that this invigorating seasonal beverage is delicious when made right. However, one alleged employee recently admitted via Reddit that staff members might make mistakes with it. In a post titled "Best lemonade flavor/drink recs?", in which a consumer complained about their Sunset Lemonade tasting bland, this employee explained that the lemonade base is easy for workers to forget about entirely. This mistake, they surmised, is likely because the drink has a much longer list of ingredients than the chain's other offerings, making it easy to muddle. If you decide to go for one of Shake Shack's specialty lemonades, let's hope you get the full list of ingredients included in your cup.

Crinkle Fries

Shake Shack crinkle fries in bag
Shake Shack crinkle fries in bag - Noonisachon/Shutterstock

Unlike the rest of Shake Shack's menu, the chain's list of sides is relatively small. It includes fries and... well, more fries. Whether plain, cheese-loaded, or Korean-spice-sprinkled, crinkle-cut French fries are the only side dish you're going to find, so you'd likely expect this offering to be a strong one. Unfortunately, some customers think these items leave a lot to be desired.

"Shake Shack indeed does have the best burgers, but their fries suck," reads the title of a Reddit thread, in which some responding users strongly agree, but others do not, especially in regards to the chain's cheese fries. One Reddit commenter also referred to the Shack's fries as being the "worst in the industry," and many eaters are confused as to why they're so mediocre compared to the quality of the burgers served alongside them.

However, the tides may yet change in Shake Shack's favor. Toward the end of 2023, the company reported it would be experimenting with a new kind of oil in two test restaurants. Sugarcane oil, instead of the original soybean oil, would be used to fry up the chain's chicken, burgers, and fries. Could this new oil serve to improve the popularity of the controversial side? Only time will tell.

Korean BBQ Burger

Korean BBQ burger from Shake Shack
Korean BBQ burger from Shake Shack - Shake Shack / Facebook

Shake Shack has experimented with Korean barbecue flavors over the years, but mainly in stores in Korea. However, in 2021, some of these special menu items made their way to U.S. locations, and in 2024, the chain introduced the Korean BBQ Burger to the States, to go with their Korean Style Fried Chicken Sandwich and two different types of Spicy Korean BBQ Fries. The burger with crispy onions, scallions, and barbecue sauce certainly sounds tempting, but beware -- as of April 2024, claims of food poisoning surrounding the new item have popped up across the net.

Multiple Redditors have taken to the forum to share their unfortunate experiences. "Food poisoning from Korean BBQ Burger at San Diego," reads the title of one of these online confessionals, and a responding employee notes their lack of surprise over the incident in the comment section. In another thread, a user claimed their significant other had fallen ill after having eaten the burger, and a responding commenter echoed, "I also got food poisoning from the Korean BBQ Burger." While these incidents involving the new sandwich may be few and far between, you might want to think twice before ordering.

Korean Fried Chicken Gochujang Sauce

Shake Shack Korean chicken sandwich
Shake Shack Korean chicken sandwich - Shake Shack/Facebook

Perhaps the most intriguing item on Shake Shack's Korean-inspired menu is its Korean Style Fried Chicken Sandwich. Why? Unlike the chain's Korean BBQ Burger, which calls for a mild barbecue sauce, this sandwich uses gochujang, a sweet and spicy Korean chili paste. It's slathered on Shake Shack's white-meat fried chicken cutlet, creating a sticky glaze that you would expect to pack some heat -- right? Wrong, according to employees and customers who have tried it.

Despite the reported deliciousness of the sandwich itself, the gochujang sauce does not quite pack the punch that many patrons expected. "The glaze was decent but the lack of spice really killed it," noted a user on Reddit. "It said gochujang glaze but there was little to no spiciness." This opinion was echoed in another thread, in which a poster asked about the heat level they should expect. It seems that this sandwich offers only a mild kick... if it has a kick at all. That's disappointing news if you're a spice lover.

'Shroom Or Veggie Shack Burgers (If You're Vegan)

The shroom burger from Shake Shack
The shroom burger from Shake Shack - arodriguezg43/Shutterstock

Veggie-based alternatives to meaty dishes such as burgers seem to be all the rage in the restaurant industry. Shake Shack currently offers two different plant-based burgers on its menu: the 'Shroom, which uses a gigantic fried portobello mushroom as a patty, and the Veggie Shack, which uses a patty made of sweet potatoes, quinoa, farro, carrots, and mushrooms.

At first glance, you'd likely expect either of these options to be safe for vegan eaters, as in completely free of any animal byproducts. Think again: The 'Shroom Burger contains an avalanche of melted cheese in the center that's only revealed after a consumer bites into it, and the Veggie Shack comes with cheese already added into the patty. Even asking for no cheese doesn't fix the problem, either. The buns used to sandwich both patties contain dairy, as well.

Online discussions show that both of these dishes have caused some major confusion for vegan eaters, so if this dietary guideline applies to you, you may want to do some pre-planning on how — or if — you can make one of these options work for you before your next order.

Grilled Cheese

A grilled cheese from Shake Shack
A grilled cheese from Shake Shack - Shake Shack/Facebook

Not into burgers, chicken sandwiches, or vegetable patties? Never fear, grilled cheese is here. For those seeking a more simple main course for themselves (or for the tiny picky eaters nestled in booster seats), Shake Shack offers up its own take on the popular melty sandwich. That being said, restaurant grilled cheeses are better than others. So how does Shake Shack's version stack up? Unfortunately, not very high, according to employees of the chain.

While there's nothing wrong with this cheesy menu item, there's nothing that elevates it past being straight-up average. "It's Cheddar or American cheese in a toasted potato bun," said a self-proclaimed worker on Reddit. "Shake Shack is good, but if all you want is a grilled cheese, then I'm sure you could make it at home for less (probably half the price honestly)." They aren't lying. The chain's sandwich is listed at nearly $5.00 (price differs by location) on the company's website. You could likely grab enough bread and cheese from your local grocery store to construct five or six homemade grilled cheeses for the same price, so consider making one for yourself (or your kid) at home and order something actually unique and worth the price.

Burgers... When Delivered

Boxes of Shake Shack burgers
Boxes of Shake Shack burgers - Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images

Shake Shack's famous smashed burgers generally come highly recommended by consumers and employees. It's not uncommon to stumble across online reviews declaring the franchise as the king of the burger chains, but nothing can be perfect 100% of the time -- and in this case, the human error might be your own. A big mistake that's guaranteed to downgrade your Shake Shack burger is getting your burger to-go. We're serious: Dining in-house instead of ordering to-go or opting for delivery can be the difference between a perfect burger and a soggy sandwich with buns that are dripping in grease.

The evidence that Shake Shack's products do not maintain their excellence after a drive back home can be seen on various online platforms. One of the first questions asked by presumed employees on Reddit when consumers report soggy buns is "Did you get it delivered?". Perhaps this is one of the aspects that really makes Shake Shack "fast-casual" instead of just fast food, as the latter is pretty much meant to be taken home with you. You might just answer differently the next time a Shake Shack cashier asks if your meal is for here or to go.

Cheese Fries

Shake Shack cheese fries
Shake Shack cheese fries - 100su/Shutterstock

While the fries at Shake Shack are not without their share of criticism, there is a saving grace to be found in the company's Cheese Fries. A thick layer of melted cheese on top often seems to make skeptics quiet down about their reservations. But in an unfortunate plot twist, employees online are responding to consumer claims that something is different about the chain's cheese sauce.

On a recent Reddit thread titled, "Did they change the cheese?????", one desperate customer expressed that their favorite Shake Shack item tasted off -- and a handful of alleged employees jumped in to provide insight. Workers didn't report any change in Shake Shack's cheese suppliers, though a few suggested that improper cheese pump cleaning could be to blame for the strange taste.

However, one comment revealed that at their Shack, the cheese sauce formula has definitely been changed up. "It needs to be properly mixed now before being put in the thermalizer," they said, adding that the alteration has downgraded the taste big time. Perhaps your local Shake Shack employs the classic method for its cheesy fries, instead of this alleged new one. Whatever the case, we hope you end up with an item you enjoy during your next Shake Shack outing.


Shake Shack store front
Shake Shack store front - Gary Hershorn/Getty Images

To create a list of some of the menu items that are looked down upon by the staff of Shake Shack, both employee admissions posted to discussion forums on Reddit as well as supporting customer complaints and feedback were scrupulously examined. That being said, food and taste is subjective, and individual experiences in regard to these products may vary.

Read the original article on Mashed