#BeBetter Podcast with Michael Kurland

Be Better By Being Humble

An attitude of humility and a passion to learn make for a successful restaurant facility manager.

Tarell Hannah is a dedicated project, retail, corporate and restaurant facilities manager with almost 20 years of experience in the facilities environments. He has extensive knowledge of all aspects of retail, restaurant maintenance, construction, including performing and managing maintenance, remodels and new store construction projects.

Portrait of Tarel Hannah

“Giving back makes me feel good knowing that I did something good for someone today.”

—Tarell Hannah

Shake Shack

9. Be Better By Being Humble

Key Takeaways

  • Always be ready to learn something new.
  • Be grateful and humble every day.
  • Go above and beyond for your customers.


Tarell Hannah is a dedicated project, retail, corporate and restaurant facilities manager with almost 20 years of experience in the facilities environments. He has extensive knowledge of all aspects of retail, restaurant maintenance, construction, including performing and managing maintenance, remodels and new store construction projects. Tarell has outstanding abilities in troubleshooting, quality assurance, budgeting and cost savings initiatives, productivity, strategic planning and equipment readiness. He is committed to delivering quality workmanship as well as leading teams to achieve desired and company set goals. Tarell currently manages 40 Shake Shack restaurants in the North East from Rhode Island, CT, MA, NY, NJ as well as OH and TN.

“Continue to have a sense of humility, empathy, and respect and live out a code of honor and dignity.”

—Tarell Hannah

Shake Shack

Podcast Transcription

Michael Kurland (00:01):

Hello, I’m Michael Kurland, CEO and Co-Founder of Branded Group. Welcome to the #BeBetter Podcast. To me, our company’s mantra to “Be Better” is more than a tagline; it’s a culture that permeates our organization, propelling our team to Be Better to each other, our customers and our communities as well as to ourselves. Each week on the #BeBetter podcast, I interview leaders who authentically exemplify how they are being better in their professional and personal lives.

Today’s podcast is dedicated to the #BeBetter team at Branded Group. For more than six years, this amazing group of industry professionals has worked together to transform a small business into an award-winning organization that boasts a 97% employee retention rate. Because of their effort and commitment to #BeBetter, we have been certified as a Great Place to Work™ and have been listed on the Inc. 5000 for three consecutive years. Learn more about Branded Group at https://www.michaelkurland.co/.

All right, guys. Welcome to another episode of the BeBetter podcast. I’m your host, Michael Kurland. I’m really excited today. We’ve got a good friend of mine to come on the show and our guest today is Tarell Hannah. Tarell is a Facilities Manager for the East Coast for Shake Shack, one of the highest grossing restaurant chains in all the world. So I’m real excited to have you here Tarell. Why don’t you tell the audience a little bit more about yourself?

Tarell Hannah:

Thank you, Mike. Thank you for that really nice intro. Hello everyone. I’m Tarell Hannah from Shake Shack. I’m the East Coast facility manager. Thank you for having me, sir.

Michael Kurland (01:04):

We’ve been friends in the industry. We’ve actually grown up in the industry together. We were just talking about it off the air. I want to say we’ve known each other for 12 years, but it might be 13. I’m good at math, but I just can’t remember exactly. But you were working at Aerosoles, the shoe company and we had a mutual friend Mike Bernard that I had worked with at Jones Apparel Group. So he was a really good construction manager in the shoe industry at the time. We got to know each other about 12, 13 years ago and Tarell and I have both grown our careers and gone in different paths, but stayed in the same industry. So Tarell, thanks for coming on.

Michael Kurland (01:52):

First question for you. What do you do and why do you do it?

Tarell Hannah:

Well I provide service, right? I provide support to the restaurants that I manage on the East Coast with respect to understanding the needs, the wants for the operations team, as well as the physical plant. My job is to keep the restaurant running efficiently and to keep equipment running efficiently. I’m also involved in all remodels, rollouts, et cetera, but that’s not primary tasks.

Michael Kurland:

Let’s talk about that a little bit more. You work for one of the top grossing revenue restaurants in the entire world and you do it in the biggest city in the entire world.  You have restaurants that I believe are open 24/7, correct?

Tarell Hannah:

We do in Vegas, anywhere there’s a casino or an airport, we have extended hours, but for the most part, our normal business hours are usually from 10 AM to 11:00 PM.

Michael Kurland:

In New York City where you’re running restaurants, I’ve been to the one on Broadway and it’s a line out the door. No matter what time of year it is, people are lining up. Tourists that can’t get Shake Shack in their lives or in their countries are here in New York City to try it. It’s the famous world thing, Shake Shack. So you can’t have things go down in your restaurant because it’s just a loss of revenue. So how are you as the facilities manager working to be better to keep that restaurant up and open so that restaurant can service those customers that have flown all across the world to try that famous Shake Shack burger?

Tarell Hannah (03:48):

That’s a really good question. I think being proactive, right? You try to be as proactive as possible. Things, especially in my world, are reactive, but you try to put plans in place and to understand what can happen in your restaurant and prevent that from happening.  You have your mechanical engineers in place for your mechanical pieces of equipment, your refrigeration, your hood, exhaust ducts and things of that nature. You partner with great vendors and I don’t want to call them vendors. I truly call them partners. We partner with those great people and they help you. They are your lifeline to making sure that your restaurant is running officially at all times.

Michael Kurland (04:31):

Being proactive. That’s how you stay on top of the nonstop facilities management for Shake Shack. I like it. I think it’s great. If we’re not proactive in our industry, we’re behind the eight ball. We have a quick ride down and that’s just not ideal. Let me ask you, let me ask you, it’s real. What are you curious about right now?

Tarell Hannah:

I’m curious about the state that we’re in as a country and what does that look like for my kids as they continue to grow and what the future looks like? I’m also curious about what has the new normal looks like for many public gathering places like Shake Shack and other restaurants and entertainment places – what does that look like for our kids in the future? How do we make that our norm? Those are the things that I would say I’m most curious about.

Michael Kurland:

So you would say the state of our country right now is very much in flux and overall, we could say the country needs to work a little bit on being better, right?  We have the black lives movement right now. We had the civil unrest.  We have this pandemic going on and, people are fighting over whether they want to wear a mask. There’s all these social issues and people are getting so aggravated against each other. What does that look like in five, 10 years? I think we’re moving in the right direction. I think we’re going to come out of this in the five, 10 years with a better understanding and just the country will be more unified. Because I think right now we’re very divided.

Tarell Hannah (06:17):

Right. I agree. I definitely think we’ll be more unified, more in line with each other. I think there’s going to be empathy that evolves from this and what we’re dealing with right now. I think that’s going to help push us forward and ultimately be better.

Michael Kurland:

I think we all need that. I relate back to when you were a kid.  I’m sure you played sports. Did you play little league when you were growing up?

Tarell Hannah:

I played basketball, football only played one game of football. I just don’t like to get hit too hard, but we won’t talk about that.

Michael Kurland (06:59):

I wasn’t even allowed to play football because my dad got hit too hard, too many times. My point is when I played baseball and they started coming out right around when I was in little league – participation trophies. Everyone was really up in arms about that because they wanted kids to learn how to win and lose gracefully. I think there’s a good point on both sides of the scale with that. But I think what is happening is the younger generation that grew up in that time when everyone got a little trophy, everyone was more unified. It’s starting to become young adults and in their late twenties and thirties. I think that is going to grow into our population and start to take over from the current population that’s in power, who was more about competition and aggressively going against your opponent, whoever that was. That’s just my personal opinion, but I think at the end of the day, it’s going to make us more unified and be better as a country within the next decade or so, hopefully. Right?

Tarell Hannah (07:51):

I think so. I think we’re going to be trending in the right direction. There’s a few pieces that need to be moved in the puzzle to make it all fit, but competition is great. I just wanted to kind of piggy back off what you just said. Competition is great, but I think that understanding that you don’t have to always win. You just have to put your best foot forward. That’s what we should be trying to instill into our children, which is the new generation. These are the kids that are going to be running our country one day.

Michael Kurland (08:43):

When we’re in our retirement homes, I’m close there as it is. You got me by a little bit, but I’m right behind you. I always like to point out to the people that are my elder statesmen when they come on the show. You also mentioned you know, what the gatherings are going to be like in the short term future. How has that affected Shake Shack and how have you rolled with that and what are you doing to be better about, about the restaurant capacities currently?

Tarell Hannah (09:33):

Shake Shack, which was birthed by Danny Meyers, this was his brain child. He brought that idea as a public gathering place, right? He brought that idea, Shake Shack would be a place that all people of all walks of life could come to and what’s better than having a nice hot burger with a nice cold beer and sit in your car.

I think that that’s what we have to look at and understand what does that look like for us? The Shake Shack in the future. Our first restaurant that we fully erected is in the park. Since then we went to these closed dining rooms and patios. Does it look like we’re going to increase the patio size so more people can eat outside? I don’t know, that’s above my pay grade, but I think everyone is looking at that.

Michael Kurland (10:18):

Even out here in California and we are lucky enough to have good weather most of the year, it’s all about patio dining at this point. They’re getting really creative.  Parking lots are now becoming beer gardens. It is a crazy time. Let’s go to the next question I’ve got for you here. It’s real. What motivates you to be better?

Tarell Hannah:

First answer that comes to mind is my children. Because this is the reason why I get up each and every day to provide for my wife and my children. My faith. I have an innate characteristic to want to help people and serve people. I think those are the points that I would make to that.

Michael Kurland (11:17):

Those are great ones. I do not have children yet. I’m hoping to one day join you as a father but that’s a couple of years down the road, but I can only imagine what it’s like to wake up every day and just know you’re providing for these little ones that are like mini you’s, right? The world needs more mini Tarell’s, that’s for sure.

Tarell Hannah:

I think so! Well, no, I think I have enough in my in my tribe, I already like it.

Michael Kurland:

You mentioned your faith. You said you have this innate reason to help people. Does that get derived from your faith? Is that something that is instilled in you or is that just Tarell being Tarell?

Tarell Hannah (12:14):

I think that’s just me being me. Even in my younger years in life, I always wanted to help people.  I always felt a bit of gratitude and gratification of helping someone else and seeing a smile that you could put on that person’s face. Not necessarily about the thank you use or the accolades of it all, but it makes me feel good and it allows me to sit back and say, “I did something good for someone today.”

Michael Kurland:

I can totally relate to it. I, when I started Branded Group, I’ve told the story a bunch of times. There’s a big hole in my heart. What kind of legacy was I leaving on this planet other than turning a profit? We started doing our service work with Habitat for Humanity. We built over 12 houses over the last five years with them.  We’ve rolled that into some other initiatives with Orange County Coastkeepers. We started and we’ve been doing beach cleanups for them and started to solidify that relationship as well. It’s like you said. It’s just serving and helping. It really just makes your heart happy. It makes my heart happy. I assume it’s the same thing for you, right?

Tarell Hannah (13:01):

It really does. Those are all good things. I think if everyone touched in themselves to see what they can do better and how they can be better, I think if the world could gravitate to that and we can turn a direction, turn the tides, there’d be a lot more happy people than hurt. Right? There would be a lot more smiley faces instead of frowns. We just have to touch on that.

Michael Kurland (13:50):

I totally agree with you. When I went to college a long, long time ago, I joined a fraternity and that was part of our being in the fraternity every year. We had to do a certain amount of philanthropic work. I remember being 18, 19, 20, and I’m like I don’t want to go clean this yard up. I did my service work with Habitat for Humanity in Lynchburg, Virginia. I didn’t want to do it but then I started doing it felt great. My parents weren’t like “you need to do volunteer work” as a child.

Once I finally did it and I got a taste for it I got that feeling of elation of being able to help someone. What I’m trying to say longwindedly is your point is correct –this is something that everyone has to do and try out. My point of view and probably a lot of other point of views at 18 years old is “I don’t want that.”  But if you get it instilled into the youth at a young age and they’re all grown up doing service work, they get that great feeling and the world would be a better place, a lot more smiles.

Tarell Hannah (15:14):

I agree. I definitely concur with that, sir.

Michael Kurland:

We’ve talked about what motivates you to be better. Now, I’d like to know what are you doing to be better for yourself and to yourself?

Tarell Hannah:

Continue to practice humility, right? Continue to have remorse. Continue to have empathy. Continue to try to be the best version of myself in those perspective fields. Hopefully I give that off to other people. Some people use exercise to be better. Some people walk, jog. I think for me to be better is just trying to be the best version of who I am already. Continue to be humble. Continue to have a sense of humility, empathy and respect and live out a code of honor and dignity.

Michael Kurland (16:15):

I like everything you’re saying. Humility, that’s a great one. It’s something that we could all use a little bit of, empathy as well. I find myself driving or waiting in line somewhere and I’m getting a little testy because my patience is running thin. Or someone’s taking a little too long to do it in my opinion, which doesn’t really mean much. But if I take a deep breath and practice empathy and think about what that person’s going through, it reminds me to take it easy. I think if everyone instilled this into themselves, like you just said, humility, empathy, a little humbleness, we could again be in a better place.

Tarell Hannah (17:05):

We can be better. Let me just double down on this. I have a quick story. I was in line getting something to eat at a fast food restaurant. It was really, really long. In my mind I’m thinking from a facilities perspective, “Do they have a grill that’s down? Why is it taking so long?”  I get to the window to pay for my food and I didn’t realize that at the time, of course, but the company that the restaurant that I was at they were training someone with autism at the window. So this young lady was slower than what I would have liked at that time. But after the fact, I realized why it was coming out so slow and you know how bad I felt. I didn’t say that to her, but in my mind, I’m like cursing. That forced me to take a look at myself and say, you need to take a chill pill. You need to humble yourself. You don’t know what someone else is going through in life. You’re just in a rush and you’re worrying about what you want in life and what you want it now. It’s like the microwave state that we’re in, right? But I felt crushed. I truly did. I felt bad. I had to check myself and realize, slow your roll.

Michael Kurland (17:56):

I think you nailed it. You called it a “microwave” society. I always say it’s the instant gratification society. We want it yesterday and yesterday is not fast enough. They’re, they’re trying to make a difference in this young lady’s life and they’ve got a program in place to help her be able to function in society. I don’t think he really did anything wrong. Other than you were getting all upset in your head, which is the same thing that I do. Now the empathy, the humbleness, the humility definitely set in. I like it. I like that this happened to you. I’m glad that you learned from your mistakes.

We’ve talked about being better to yourself. I’d like to know how are you being better professionally, especially right now? I’m not a TV guy, but in the last few months I have watched so much TV. I’ve watched so many movies and I just want to get back to normal. I will say that Guy’s Grocery Games is my new guilty pleasure. I will watch cooking grocery shopping, supermarket sweep show. I just like Guy Fieri. But anyway, enough about that. So how are you being better to self professionally?

Tarell Hannah (19:35):

I would say self educating, I’m a big fan of educating yourself and lately I’ve been indulging and understanding and NFPA codes, NFP 96 to be specific and FBA 96 essentially stands for National Fire Protection Association.  From that mistake and I believe early 1980s, it was established in New York, New Jersey to help us understand fire prevention, life safety measures, when it comes to exhaust systems and ducts and, and cooking equipment and things of that nature.

Michael Kurland:

Tell the audience what NFPA local codes are.

Tarell Hannah:

National Fire Protection Association. So these are the local codes that the fire department uses when they come in in to restaurants to check your duct, your hoods, your cooking equipment, your range, and things like that.

Michael Kurland (20:38):

That can shut you down immediately.

Tarell Hannah:

Oh yes. If you’re not in line with the requirements, you can get a violation. The first one is just a warning. The second one is anywhere between one to $5,000. After that, they can say we’re going to red tag your whole entire building. We’re going to red tag your equipment and you have to shut down until whatever the issues are, are resolved.

Michael Kurland:

Let me pause you for a second and ask one more question. If you’re the facilities manager and you get a violation, I guess that your boss is not happy with you and that comes down on your shoulders. Right?

Tarell Hannah (21:25):

It does. So my boss is not happy with me, our CEO and CFO, and all the executives are not happy because this is money that we’re just giving away. So it’s my responsibility to make sure all equipment is functioning as designed. Efficiently, there are no issues and we’re providing a good service facilities-wise to the Shacks and ultimately they can provide a good service to our guests.

Michael Kurland:

That’s definitely being better professionally. You’re taking the initiative to get down into the weeds and learn even more about something that gets your restaurants up and running. I’m sure your boss and CEO are happy to hear that you’re using your downtime wisely.

Tarell Hannah (22:21):

I try to. I think we all have to. I have a son that’s 18 years old, who is going away to college this year. I tell him that education is something that never stops. You should be able to get up each day and learn something new. Or if you’re not learning something new, you’re perfecting or getting better at something that you learned the day before. It should be an ongoing thing in your world. In order for me to be the best facility manager that I can be, I need to understand all these codes. I need to understand all the behind the scenes things, not just fixing something as it breaks. I need to be proactive.

Michael Kurland (23:07):

You’re touching on a subject that I’ve mentioned this before. A great book I recently read called “Atomic Habits” by James Cleary. That’s what the whole book is about – diving into getting 1% better every day. Take it in small bites because you’re not going to learn Russian overnight. But if you can learn a little bit more every day, a little bit more of code every day, that 1% better is compounded over the course of a year.  You’re 365. I think that’s the right math. If you’re 1% better, it’s 365 better than you were when you started the year, unless it’s a leap year. But that’s great advice as a father for your son going away to college – just try to get a little bit better every day. I really liked that a lot. So you and the audience should check out “Atomic habits” if you get a chance. I highly recommend it.

To your point, I’ve been taking this time as well to learn Spanish. My fiancé is a Mexican and her family speaks fluent Spanish. I’ve never spoken fluently, but I’ve taken Spanish on and off throughout my high school and college days, but let it go by the wayside for a while. Now I’ve been taking the app Babble and am learning Spanish. My goal is one lesson a day and the lessons take between five and 10 minutes. It’s not like we don’t have time to do that. It’s amazing. I’ve been doing it for about three to four months now, and I can order in Spanish. You can read the menu properly. I can read it and I can order in Spanish. You know, it’s amazing. It’s good. I’ve made some made progress. So I don’t think that’s really professionally for me, but I think that’s just about being better.

Tarell Hannah (24:40):

It can be whatever you want. You can relate to some degree to others who only speak Spanish, right? You can kind of relate to them to some degree. So this is true for everyone.

Michael Kurland:

Tarell, this has been fun. We’ve had a lot of good conversation. I always end each podcast with the same question. So I’m going to ask you, what do you consider yourself to be an expert at? What is your best advice to our listeners on how to be better at said thing?

Tarell Hannah (25:33):

This is an easy one. I can answer that without even thinking about it. I am an expert at nothing. I am a student of life. I am a student of learning. I try to acquire as much knowledge and wisdom as I possibly can to help me professionally and personally. I don’t claim to be an expert or a subject matter expert. What I will tell you, what I can do, I’m a great problem solver. If you have a problem, I can solve it or I can point you in direction to help you get some sort of relief or a resolve for it.

What I would tell all the guests that are listening to this podcast is just be who you are. Be who God made you to be, be who you are. Be understanding to people whether or not they have shortcomings, whether you know something about that person, you don’t like. Sometimes we have to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes to truly understand them. Always put yourself in someone’s shoes and be appreciative of what you have and what you do.

Michael Kurland (26:27):

That’s some great advice to leave the audience with. Don’t judge people until you have walked a mile in their shoes is what I was always told.  It’s a good lesson to carry forward in life. I’ve never had anyone say that they’re not an expert at anything, but I do love the honesty and the humility. I appreciate that. I really appreciate you coming on the show today. This has been fun. If the audience would like to get a hold of you or would like to look up Shake Shack, how can they do that?

Tarell Hannah (27:25):

You can go to ShakeShack.com. If you want to look at what our brand looks like, what we are doing and all the different, great initiatives that the company is putting forth. I think a blast went out yesterday, or the day before yesterday of a Shake Shack camp. I don’t have all the details in front of me, but if you go on our website, you will definitely see what that is and what that looks like. If you want to get in touch with me, you can always reach out to me at thannah@shakeshack.com for any questions, concerns, or if you just want to engage.  Networking is the best way to help build your career. I’m also on LinkedIn, so you can reach out to me on LinkedIn. I’m not on Facebook or Instagram or anything like that, but my social media outlet is LinkedIn.

Michael Kurland:

Great. Thanks so much. Shake Shack camp. I want to know more about that so I’ll go to the website right away. Thank you listeners for tuning in and we’ll see you next week.

I’d like to take a minute to thank you, our valued listeners. My intention is for this podcast to inspire you, in some way, to be better.  Change starts from within and radiates outward. Therefore, start with being better to yourself and only then will you recognize how to be better others and your community. Thank you for joining us today! If you want to learn more about Branded Group, then visit us at www.branded-group.com. From our website you can follow us on social media. Also, always feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn. Until next time, Be Better.

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