Did Shake Shack get rid of gluten-free bun?

Gluten-free dining options are increasingly important for people who have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. For many, a burger in a gluten-free bun is a treat they thought they’d have to give up after a diagnosis. So when rumors started swirling that popular burger chain Shake Shack may have discontinued their gluten-free bun, it caused quite a stir.

In this article, we’ll get to the bottom of the gluten-free bun situation at Shake Shack. We’ll look at the history of their gluten-free offerings, what customers are saying about the availability of gluten-free buns today, and whether there are any alternatives for burger-lovers who need to avoid gluten.

The History of Shake Shack’s Gluten-Free Bun

Shake Shack started offering a gluten-free bun option for their burgers in 2016. This was part of an effort to provide more inclusive menu choices. Gluten-free customers welcomed the option to enjoy Shake Shack favorites like the ShackBurger and SmokeShack on a bun they could actually eat.

The gluten-free bun was created in partnership with Udi’s Gluten Free. It contained ingredients like potato starch, pea protein isolate, and tapioca starch. When it launched, Shake Shack said the bun would be available upon request at all their locations in the U.S.

For several years, the gluten-free bun was promoted on their menus and website. Those with celiac disease or gluten intolerance knew they had a gluten-free burger option when craving Shake Shack. But starting sometime in 2019, customers began reporting difficulty finding the bun at their local Shake Shacks.

Customer Complaints About Lack of Availability

On forums, review sites, and social media, customers posted about being informed that their location no longer offered a gluten-free bun. Some were told that none of the locations carried it anymore. Understandably, these conflicting reports led to a great deal of confusion.

As early as January 2019, a reviewer on FindMeGlutenFree.com shared their experience visiting a Portland, Oregon Shake Shack. They were told by an employee that the restaurant no longer had gluten-free buns and hadn’t for some time. This story was echoed by various social media users over the course of the year.

Gluten-free customers vented frustrations at being given false information. Some Shake Shack locations continued providing the GF bun while others claimed it was no longer available. Those needing to avoid gluten found it difficult to know what to expect when visiting a new location.

No Official Announcement from Shake Shack

The curious thing throughout 2019 was the lack of an official announcement from Shake Shack about discontinuing their gluten-free bun. Their website and menus still listed a gluten-free bun as an option. There were no press releases or social media posts declaring its removal.

Some inferred that Shake Shack was slowly rolling out a removal of the bun instead of making a splashy announcement. But as a large chain, it seemed odd there was no consistency or customer forewarning. Meanwhile, Shake Shack headquarters remained silent on the matter.

Is the Gluten-Free Bun Available in 2020?

Entering 2020, Shake Shack’s website continues listing a gluten-free bun as an option. Their nutritional information separates entries for burgers on a regular bun vs. a Udi’s gluten-free bun. So technically, it still appears available.

But people posting on social media and review sites say difficulty finding the gluten-free bun in-store continues. Some report being told by managers that Shake Shack discontinued the bun nationwide. Others say select locations still offer it.

There are a few Shake Shacks that seem to consistently have the gluten-free bun, like the locations in Disney Springs, Florida and Avon, Colorado. But experiences vary widely elsewhere.

Inconsistent Availability City-to-City, Location-to-Location

Based on the most recent customer reviews, here is the situation on finding a gluten-free bun at some Shake Shacks around the U.S:

  • Los Angeles, CA: Mixed reports on availability
  • Las Vegas, NV: Mostly unavailable
  • Portland, OR: Unavailable
  • Seattle, WA: Mixed availability
  • Dallas, TX: Mixed availability
  • Austin, TX: Mostly unavailable
  • Houston, TX: Mostly unavailable
  • Washington DC: Mixed availability
  • New York City: Mixed availability
  • Boston, MA: Mixed availability
  • Chicago, IL: Mostly unavailable
  • Denver, CO: Mixed availability

It’s nearly impossible to say which Shake Shacks have the bun and which don’t. Outposts in the same metro area often differ on availability. And customers report sporadic experiences, where one day their Shake Shack has it and the next day it’s gone.

Lack of Staff Awareness

Part of the problem seems to stem from staff unaware that a gluten-free bun is (or was) ever an option at Shake Shack. When customers ask for a gluten-free bun, they’re told Shake Shack does not offer one.

Some managers and employees clearly have not been trained or informed about the existence of a gluten-free bun program. So even if a location still offers it in theory, customers meet resistance when they try to order it.

Shake Shack’s Official Response on the Gluten-Free Bun

With rising customer complaints and confusion, Thrillist writer Candice Woo reached out to Shake Shack in early 2020 regarding the bun.

Spokesperson Kristyn Clark acknowledged issues with availability: “The gluten-free bun has been a menu item we’ve struggled to keep in stock as it’s not a product of our own. We apologize for the inconsistent availability.”

Clark stressed that Shake Shack has not officially removed the gluten-free bun from their menu. She blamed lack of supply and mandated employee training to smooth out availability issues going forward.

Promises of Improved Experience

In her statement to Thrillist, Clark said Shake Shack is “working to educate our teams across all of our restaurants to ensure we’re providing an exceptional experience and accurate information to our guests.”

This indicates that many employees have been unaware of the gluten-free bun or protocols for serving it. Shake Shack is now trying to get all staff on the same page.

Clark claimed Shake Shack is “actively working with our suppliers to ensure availability of the gluten-free bun for our guests with gluten sensitivities or celiac disease.” So it seems supply chain issues may have caused shortages.

While not a definitive answer, Shake Shack’s statement gives hope that the gluten-free bun will return to full availability in the future through staff training and supply improvements.

How to Order a Gluten-Free Bun at Shake Shack

Until Shake Shack gets its gluten-free bun situation squared away, the ordering process will likely remain tricky. Here are some tips for trying to order a burger on a gluten-free bun:

Check Find Me Gluten Free

The Find Me Gluten Free app/website provides details on the gluten-free offerings at restaurant chains. Check here to see if any Shake Shack diners have posted recently about GF bun availability in your area.

Call Ahead

Calling your Shake Shack location ahead of time can help avoid disappointment. Explain your gluten allergy and ask specifically if they have a gluten-free bun available before heading over.

Visit at Non-Peak Times

Aim to hit up Shake Shack at off-peak hours. Requesting the gluten-free bun may take extra time that staff don’t have during a slammed lunch rush.

Speak to a Manager

If the cashier seems unsure about a gluten-free bun, politely ask if a manager is available. Managers are more likely to be aware that Shake Shack offers a gluten-free option.

Kindly Stand Your Ground

If you are told no gluten-free buns are available, gently push back. Explain you thought it was a regular offering and the website/menu lists the option. The employee may double check with the kitchen.

Check Back Next Visit

The availability of the gluten-free bun seems prone to change day-to-day. If your Shake Shack is out today, you may have luck on your next trip.

Gluten-Free Options Beyond the Bun

If you find your location has stopped offering the gluten-free bun, all hope for a Shake Shack burger is not lost. You have a couple options to still enjoy their burgers gluten-free:

Protein Style

Order your burger “protein style” to have it wrapped in lettuce instead of a bun. While not exactly the same experience, it does allow you to eat a burger guilt-free.

Get it wrapped in a lettuce leaf or order it on top of a salad instead of on a bun.


Request your patty by itself with no bun at all. Then add on any gluten-free sides you can eat like fries or cheese sticks.

Going bun-less means you miss the burger experience, but at least you can still enjoy the beef.

Will Shake Shack Bring Back the Gluten-Free Bun?

The question on the minds of many gluten-free burger lovers is whether Shake Shack will reinstate its gluten-free bun on a permanent, nationwide basis.

The company claims they never officially got rid of the bun. They blame supply chain and employee education issues for the shortages and confusion.

However, it seems odd such a large chain would be unable to solve these problems quickly. Over three years have passed since customers first reported shortages.

Some wonder if Shake Shack quietly decided the gluten-free bun was too expensive or time-consuming to keep. Since it never formally announced removing the bun, it avoided backlash while slowly edging it off menus.

Hope for a Comeback

But Shake Shack insists the gluten-free bun will make a comeback thanks to:

  • Renewed focus on staff GF education
  • Increased inventory allocation
  • Pressure on suppliers to meet demand

They claim menu redesigns and kitchen changes impacted availability. Now awareness is spreading and issues are being addressed. So hopefully customers will enjoy consistent access again soon.

Possibility of Discontinuation

On the other hand, if shortages and confusion continue past 2020, Shake Shack may need to reevaluate. If the gluten-free bun remains unreliable long-term, fully discontinuing it could make sense.

Removing it from menus and materials altogether would provide clarity. Then gluten-free customers would know no bun options exist instead of being led on.

But let’s hope improved bun availability comes to fruition. Discontinuing it completely would disappoint fans who appreciated the menu innovation.

The Bottom Line

So, did Shake Shack get rid of their gluten-free bun? Technically no, but effectively, sometimes yes.

While not officially discontinued, the bun has become hard to find over the past couple years. Availability varies greatly depending on location.

Supply chain and employee education issues seem at fault, rather than an intentional removal. Shake Shack promises to get the bun back in stock through supplier talks and better staff training.

Hopefully the bun will indeed make a stable comeback nationwide. But those needing to avoid gluten should call locations ahead or be prepared to go bun-less for now.

Despite hiccups, Shake Shack offering a gluten-free bun at all was a milestone. With some renewed focus, hopefully the option will return for good at all outposts soon.

The Takeaway

Here are the key points on the availability of Shake Shack’s gluten-free bun:

  • Introduced in 2016, the GF bun was created with Udi’s Gluten Free
  • Starting in 2019, customers reported spotty availability location-to-location
  • Shake Shack claims supply and staff education challenges led to shortages
  • As of 2020, the bun remains inconsistently available in U.S. regions
  • Shake Shack states they never discontinued it and aim to improve accessibility
  • Calling ahead and manager requests can help when ordering
  • Going “protein-style” or bun-less are alternatives for burger enjoyment

While Shake Shack still officially offers a gluten-free bun, the realities of finding one remain hit or miss. As improvements hopefully roll out, guests managing gluten issues should stay flexible when craving those tasty Shack burgers.

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