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Shake Shack Case Study: Serving up Sustainable Growth

Explore how Workday is deployed to help Shake Shack satisfy its appetite for scalability and agility.

Shake Shack is a socially-minded, fast-casual restaurant chain based in New York City. Capturing the essence of a modern roadside burger stand, Shake Shack has grown from humble beginnings—first as a hot dog cart and then a kiosk in Manhattan’s Madison Square Park—into a cultural phenomenon with more than 400 locations and 7,700 employees worldwide.  As the company grew, its mission to “stand for something good” expanded to include taking care of employees, sourcing premium ingredients from like-minded partners, and designing its restaurants responsibly—and much more. Apart as the leading cloud-based solution for creating better ways for people to work.

Automating to keep pace

After launching an initial public offering in 2015, Shake Shack was challenged to keep pace with rapid growth and to meet new reporting and auditing requirements including Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) compliance. At the time, the company’s lean finance organisation relied on paper-based processes and a set of disconnected systems left over from the company’s early days to build budgets, reports, and forecasts. Quarterly closings took 10 days or more. Most of the organisation’s 200+ controls had to be applied manually. And, internal auditors had to physically track down data including account balances and journal entries in order to do their jobs. However, the need for modernisation and automation was not limited to financial tasks. With a “people-first” culture, the company also sought a modern way to manage its workforce, retain talent, and keep everyone engaged. More than new financial management and HR applications, the company needed an integrated, cloud-based platform that would provide the scalability to expand rapidly, along with the agility to navigate unforeseen events.

In pursuit of these goals, Shake Shack embarked on its digital transformation journey in 2018. Company leaders chose the integrated Workday platform, including Human Capital Management, Financial Management, and Payroll. They also selected Deloitte to implement the new system as well as to introduce leading practises, automate manual processes, and help the organisation to make the most of the real-time data afforded by a unified, cloud-based platform.

Planning for a changing world

After a successful go-live in July 2019, Shake Shack chose to continue its relationship with Deloitte for phase two of the project, which focused on balance sheet, cash flow, and long-range business planning enabled by Workday Adaptive Planning. At the time, few could have foreseen the hard pivot that would soon be necessary in order to manage the business and social challenges presented by COVID-19.

In the midst of phase two, the equivalent of lightning struck in the form of the pandemic. Like all restaurants, Shake Shack’s business was severely disrupted as it was forced, almost overnight, to become a delivery and pick-up only business. While the organisation already recognised that financial and strategic planning was an important initiative, cash flow forecasting was suddenly thrust into the spotlight. And, this abrupt change in priorities took place just a few weeks before the deployment was scheduled to go live.

With new business priorities to address, delaying the deployment was not a viable option. To stay on track, the Deloitte team adjusted its approach and moved to an entirely remote delivery model. The second phase of the project was delivered on time, largely due to a steadfast commitment from both Shake Shack and Deloitte team members to keep moving. The forecasting capabilities of Adaptive Planning ultimately proved essential. The finance team used them to predict and adjust Shake Shack’s cash position so the company could continue to serve its customers and manage its workforce during the COVID-19 crisis and beyond.

Today, Adaptive Planning enables the budgeting and forecasting cycles across different departments, which allows the company to more accurately and efficiently forecast revenue and spending, amortise equipment, and expedite the budgeting process. The system also adds value by enabling cost-centre managers to create a variety of forecasts and finance personnel to readily create accurate board reports from trusted data and metrics.

“Before Workday, accounting had to print and physically sign every journal entry that they entered into the system. Now that process is automated, which reduces processing time and makes the accounting team more proactive than reactive.”

Brian Seely, V.P., Enterprise Systems, Shake Shack


“Before, we would have to ask people to give us account balances and show us the journal entries. Now, with Workday, we can see everything we need without asking other people to provide the information.”

Jessica Kast, Senior Manager of Internal Audit

“Shake Shack’s partnership with Deloitte is what made it possible for us to implement Workday on time and ensure we achieved the goals and objectives outlined from the start of the programme. As a team, we were able to mould business processes, leading to efficiencies in our shacks, and giving our managers back time where they can be with our team and our guests.”

Brian Seely, V.P., Enterprise Systems, Shake Shack

“Workday AMS support from Deloitte really helps us on a day-to-day basis. And, we all comb over the Workday Community videos and presentations to gain additional knowledge.”

Brian Seely, V.P., Enterprise Systems, Shake Shack

Adapting to what’s next

Shake Shack is already building upon its Workday foundation to better serve its employees as well as its customers by deploying innovations such as the Deloitte Tipping Allocation Calculator. The organisation is also expanding its know-how on Workday capabilities by leveraging a set of support services, including Workday Application Management Services provided by Deloitte and a range of additional resources from the Workday Community. With the capabilities of the full Workday suite and the knowledge to put them to use, the company is well-positioned to sustain its growth trajectory by adapting to whatever comes next.

The Deloitte Tipping Allocation Calculator

Amid one of the most difficult labour markets in history and the COVID-19 pandemic, which reshaped the way business is done, Shake Shack sought to enable its guests to leave a gratuity as a way of saying “thank you” to its front-line employees. The company had developed a method for collecting tips from guests, but it didn’t have a structured way of allocating and distributing them to team members. To this end, Deloitte designed a proof-of-concept (POC) to automate the process. The POC, which ultimately evolved into the Deloitte Tipping Allocation Calculator, leverages Workday Prism Analytics and the power of the integrated Workday platform to tally tips from the stores, calculate disbursements based on allocation rules, and distribute the appropriate share of tips to employees via the Workday Payroll engine.

The Deloitte Tipping Allocation Calculator represents a significant industry innovation. With it, finance and payroll personnel no longer have to manually tally tips and search through payroll records to see who worked a particular shift. Since this is now a fully automated process, they can reallocate this time to higher-value activities. Meanwhile, employees can log into their Workday account from a mobile device and easily view their earnings broken down by wages and tips. They can now see their total worth as an employee and engage more frequently via an intuitive, cloud-based system.

The Deloitte Cash Flow Scenario Planning Accelerator

Cash flow forecasting has traditionally been a highly manual process requiring workers to gather, compile, and manipulate data—often using spreadsheets. As the availability and volume of data have grown dramatically, this old-school approach has become unwieldy, time-consuming, and prone to human error and bias.

Deloitte’s Cash Flow Scenario Planning Accelerator—powered by Workday Adaptive Planning—enables Financial Planning and Analysis (FP&A) teams to model their cash flow using the indirect method. The Accelerator delivers interactive dashboards, data visualisations, business metrics, and charts that can be shared to help improve business performance. At the same time, management and board reporting can be dramatically enhanced with instant updates pulled from legacy ERP platforms, financial systems, and other data sources. Overall, the Accelerator is designed to build scale, speed, and flexibility into an organisation’s modelling and forecasting capabilities, while also helping improve collaboration both within the FP&A group and across the rest of the company.

Key results


  • Established one source of financial truth.
  • Cut quarterly closing time in half, from 10 days to five. 
  • Enabled employees to earn effectively higher wages.

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