My pal 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.”
After I started scripting this, friends, I needed a longer, drawn-out story here. But when I heard that, I deleted everything. Because dammit if this Sam Adams-swilling street poet didn’t sum it perfectly.
“Whenever you can offer a good haircut or when you can serve an excellent drink at a bar or when you can serve a good hamburger, you could 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, just a stone’s throw from DC, AKA Cap City. Since they started the place using their parents, that constituted “Five Guys,” and so that name came to be (and subsequently, a younger brother would be born 2 yrs later, providing them with 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 developed to acquire, they introduced complimentary shelled peanuts as something to munch on as you waited.
The area took off, therefore, on the next fifteen years, they methodically opened four more in and around Cap City, then slowly begun to expand into lower Virginia and Maryland. Starting in 2003, they expanded nationwide. Nowadays there are over 1,500 Five Guys locations all over the world. Based on their 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 concept of fast-food burger chains versus fast-casual is actually a scary topic for me personally. As an example, In-N-Out naturally fits into this conversation (and contains 340 locations) because the burger is usually 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 existence of drive-thrus in most locations is definitely the differentiator for me personally). But this shit is tough to define, and giving me anxiety, so let’s just move on.
What exactly is Five Guys attempting to do now? With this hyper-aggressive expansion plan, Five Guys is very clearly seeking to exert their influence inside the Great Burger Wars of the fast-casual era. Along with nearly four times the volume of restaurants his or her next biggest rival, they’ve got an impressive head start. Also, quite famously, they never advertised at all until around three years ago — which, if you believe about this, is kind of a means of advertising by itself amirite?!? And also then, their ad footprint was purposefully small and really only on the internet and with social networking. These are savvy Guys (and Girls).
The Way I made it happen: During the period of 2 weeks, I went to two Northern California Five Guys an overall of three times. I ordered each and every item on the actual menu, plus one off-menu item, and ate a bunch of peanuts for absolutely no reason while I was waiting.
A note on the peanuts: They’re fine? Shelling peanuts is more concerning the process for me, which I found mildly relaxing. But in the end, they’re still just peanuts, and since the phrase “I purchased it for peanuts” doesn’t suggest they’re an enormous value-add, I’m not spending more time upon them.
Five Stars/Guys Who Are Enjoyable To Get Around: Many moons ago, I reviewed nearly 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, therefore they weren’t yet inside the mix, and it was actually a confusing time for your fhyxvv food vs fast-casual debate I mentioned earlier.) But after spending the last few years eating 330 burgers from independent restaurants all over the country, I hadn’t been back to five guys holiday hours.
But lo and behold, upon my revisits the burgers were again a minor revelation. Each time, I saw char on the meat, hand-formed patties that broke apart easily, a well-griddled bun that didn’t get soggy, and also the exclusive use of American cheese, which is THE ONLY ACCEPTABLE CHEESE on burgers. They aren’t perfect (they have an inclination to undercook the griddled onions, which doesn’t permit them to properly caramelize), however they are definitely in 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 simply a grilled cheese, however with an added burger patty and grilled onions. The patty melt advantages of the reality that they flip over a regular bun and double grill it in what would normally become the inside of the bun as the outside, as well as 2 layers of cheese encasing the burger patty. The grilled onions in the mix makes the entire thing a gooey, griddled delight. Honestly, I can’t recommend it enough. I ate the complete thing after I’d sampled two burgers, two hot dogs, two other sandwiches, two orders of fries, and two milkshakes. I think my body created another stomach simply to sate my needs.