SHAKE SHACK (SHAK) – MAKING NEWS AGAIN, PRODUCTIVE FOR ALL!

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SHAKE SHACK (SHAK) – NEWS AGAIN, PRODUCTIVE FOR INDUSTRY, DECISION FOR SOME !

THE NEWS, THE OUTCRY, AND THE RESPONSE

Shake Shack is returning the $10M they had been granted by the PPP program. Turned out their their potential sale of $75M of equity was expanded to raise $136M (before underwriting expenses on Friday. The public outcry, which these days is almost instantaneous, arose over the weekend, with observers complaining that the PPP  was not intended to help companies such as SHAK, who can raise capital in other ways. Legendary founder Danny Meyer and CEO, Randy Garutti, published a letter outlining their desire to  support employees every way they can. They therefore applied immediately when the program was established because SHAK qualified according to the guidelines. They are returning the $10M now because they have otherwise accessed the capital market, with less than 10% equity dilution it turns out, and they want the $10M to be given to more needy restaurant operators. Shake Shack has always been very good at public relations and the brand remains a cult in some quarters. Meyer and Garutti emphasized their dedication to their employees, and Garutti (on CNBC this morning) indicated that employees are going to get a raise in pay and bonuses in this current quarter, regardless of store sales.

THE BROADER POSITIVE, FOR THE INDUSTRY

Meyer and Garutti, with this very  public situation, have indicated, appropriately, that the hastily prepared PPP has some problems. One of the most serious problems, which we described here last week, is that the funds have to be spent within eight weeks if the loan is to be forgiven. The restaurants aren’t fully opened, if at all, and business will not return to previous levels for months, at least. Operators  will therefore be torn between their desire to “keep their (government) powder dry” and the requirement to spend 75% of the money on payroll, rent and utilities within eight weeks. Meyer and Garutti suggested a simple fix, which we hope will be adopted. The period in which the funds must be applied should be extended from eight weeks to six months. Meyer and Garutti have a high enough profile that maybe Kudlow, Mnuchin, et.al. will take this to heart.

A REMAINING ISSUE: WHO IS “DESERVING” ?? PICKING WINNERS AND LOSERS

The guidelines for PPP, and all government “entitlement” programs always leave room for questioning as to who is needy enough to deserve the money. Shake Shack (SHAK) “qualifies” but is not “needy” enough. Ruth’s Chris (RUTH) received $20M, Fogo De Chao (Privately held) received $20M and J.Alexanders (JAX) received $15.4M. All are profitable companies and have access to various forms of capital (at a price). Should they also return the government money? Everybody can use more capital. Some are more needy than others. Should a Jimmy John’s franchisee or a franchisee of  McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s or Dunkin’ get help. All are operating within successful systems that can presumably keep them going. At another level, perhaps a McDonald’s franchisee in Utah doesn’t need help as much as a McDonald’s on Long Island, NY.

There will always be questions, potential inconsistencies and outcomes that can be considered unfair. You can count on the fact that when trillions of dollars are distributed quickly there will be unintended consequences. We are all in a situation that is uncomfortable at many levels, in some cases desperately uncomfortable. Our advice, relative to this discussion is that we would take the capital we have qualified for, publicize it as little as possible while doing our best for various stakeholders. We would then hope for the best in terms of public reaction, if any, and react reasonably, knowing that you can’t please every observer. Shake Shack has reacted appropriately and productively under the circumstances, as we would expect from this highly respected company.

Roger Lipton