My friend Alyssa tells a story about being in five guys prices in Boston. She’d just settled down with her food at her table when she overhead an over-served guy likely wearing a Shawn Thornton Bruins jersey speaking to himself as he inhaled a cheeseburger. “Ahhhh,” he sighed, contentedly, in between bites. “This is just the right amount of guys.”
Once I started scripting this, friends, I needed an extended, drawn-out story here. However when I heard that, I deleted everything. Because dammit in the event that Sam Adams-swilling street poet didn’t sum it up perfectly.
“When you can offer a good haircut or when you can serve a good drink with a bar or when you can serve a great hamburger, you can make money in America.” — Five Guys founder Jerry Murrell’s mother
Where did Five Guys come from? In 1986, the four brothers Murrell opened a takeaway burger joint in Arlington, Virginia, simply a stone’s throw from DC, AKA Cap City. As they started the spot making use of their parents, that constituted “Five Guys,” and so that name was created (and subsequently, a younger brother could be born 2 yrs later, offering them five actual guys as sons). The rules were simple: hand-formed, fresh-ground beef; fries cooked in peanut oil; no freezers. As each burger was created to acquire, they introduced complimentary shelled peanuts as something to eat when you waited.
The spot took off, and so, over the next 15 years, they methodically opened four more in and around Cap City, then slowly began to expand into lower Virginia and Maryland. Starting in 2003, they expanded nationwide. Now there are over 1,500 Five Guys locations worldwide. In accordance with their internet site “another 1,500 (are) in development.”
Competitor context. The clearest competitors to Five Guys are Shake Shack (around 200 total locations), Smashburger (370), Habit Burger (250), and Fat Burger (over 200). The thought of fast-food burger chains versus fast-casual is a scary topic for me personally. As an example, In-N-Out naturally fits into this conversation (and contains 340 locations) as the burger is frequently discussed (by me, no less, later), inside the national conversation of cult chain burgers along most of these joints, however it is more fast food than fast casual (the actual existence of drive-thrus in most locations will be the differentiator for me personally). But this shit is hard to define, and giving me anxiety, so let’s just move ahead.
What exactly is Five Guys seeking to do now? Using this hyper-aggressive expansion plan, Five Guys is very clearly seeking to exert their influence in the Great Burger Wars of the fast-casual era. And with nearly 4 times the quantity of restaurants his or her next biggest rival, they’ve got a remarkable head start. Also, quite famously, they never advertised in any way until about three years back — which, if you feel about it, is kind of a way of advertising in itself amirite?!? And also then, their ad footprint was purposefully small, and really only online and with social networking. They may be savvy Guys (and Girls).
How I did it: Over the course of two weeks, I went to two Northern California Five Guys an overall total of three times. I ordered each and every item on the actual menu, plus one off-menu item, and ate a variety of peanuts for absolutely no reason as i was waiting.
A note on the peanuts: They’re fine? Shelling peanuts is much more about the process for me personally, that i found mildly relaxing. But in the long run, they’re still just peanuts, because the phrase “I bought it for peanuts” doesn’t suggest they’re a massive value-add, I’m not spending more time upon them.
Five Stars/Guys That Are Enjoyable To Become Around: Many moons ago, I reviewed virtually every major chain cheeseburger. Much towards the chagrin of my In-N-Out fanboy California family, I proclaimed Five Guys as getting the best. (Note: this is before Shake Shake began their intensive expansion, so that they weren’t yet within the mix, plus it was a confusing time for that fhyxvv food vs fast-casual debate I mentioned earlier.) But after spending recent years eating 330 burgers from independent restaurants all over the country, I hadn’t been back to five guys hours.
But lo and behold, upon my revisits the burgers were again a small revelation. Every time, I saw char on the meat, hand-formed patties that broke apart easily, a well-griddled bun that didn’t get soggy, as well as the exclusive use of American cheese, which is THE ONLY ACCEPTABLE CHEESE on burgers. They aren’t perfect (they tend to undercook the griddled onions, which doesn’t permit them to properly caramelize), but they are definitely within the In-N-Out,/Shake Shack pantheon of quality fast-casual burger chains that sit above the rest of the major players.
Essentially it’s just a grilled cheese, however with an extra burger patty and grilled onions. The patty melt benefits from the reality that they flip more than a regular bun and double grill it in what would normally be the inside the bun as the outside, and 2 layers of cheese encasing the burger patty. The grilled onions within the mix definitely makes the entire thing a gooey, griddled delight. Honestly, I can’t recommend it enough. I ate the entire thing after I’d sampled two burgers, two hot dogs, two other sandwiches, two orders of fries, as well as 2 milkshakes. I do believe my body created another stomach in order to sate my needs.