My pal Alyssa tells a story about being in five guys menu 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 writing this, friends, I had a lengthier, 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.
“Whenever you can provide a good haircut or if you can serve a good drink with a bar or whenever you can serve a good hamburger, you can generate income 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. Because they started the spot making use of their parents, that constituted “Five Guys,” and thus that name was created (and subsequently, a younger brother would be born 2 yrs later, providing them with five actual guys as sons). The principles were simple: hand-formed, fresh-ground beef; fries cooked in peanut oil; no freezers. As each burger was developed to buy, they introduced complimentary shelled peanuts as something to eat as 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. There are now over 1,500 Five Guys locations worldwide. Based on their website “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 really a scary topic for me personally. For instance, In-N-Out naturally fits into this conversation (and it has 340 locations) as the burger is often discussed (by me, no less, later), inside the national conversation of cult chain burgers along most of these joints, yet it is more fast food than fast casual (the actual existence of drive-thrus in many locations is definitely the differentiator to me). But this shit is difficult to define, and giving me anxiety, so let’s just proceed.
Precisely what is Five Guys seeking to do now? Using this hyper-aggressive expansion plan, Five Guys is extremely clearly attempting to exert their influence within the Great Burger Wars from the fast-casual era. Along with nearly 4x the amount of restaurants as his or her next biggest rival, they’ve got a remarkable jump start. Also, quite famously, they never advertised in any way until about three years ago — which, if you think about this, is kind of an easy method of advertising in itself amirite?!? As well as then, their ad footprint was purposefully small, and really only on the internet and with social media. They are savvy Guys (and Girls).
How I made it happen: Over the course of 2 weeks, I visited two Northern California Five Guys a total of 3 times. I ordered every single item on the actual menu, plus one off-menu item, and ate a variety of peanuts for absolutely no reason while I was waiting.
A note on the peanuts: They’re fine? Shelling peanuts is more about the process for me, which 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 an enormous value-add, I’m not spending more hours on them.
Five Stars/Guys Who Definitely Are Enjoyable To Become 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 obtaining the best. (Note: it was before Shake Shake began their intensive expansion, therefore they weren’t yet within the mix, and it also was a confusing time for your fhyxvv food vs fast-casual debate I mentioned earlier.) But after spending the recent years eating 330 burgers from independent restaurants nationwide, I hadn’t been back to 5 guys holiday hours.
But lo and behold, upon my revisits the burgers were again a small revelation. Each and every time, I saw char on the meat, hand-formed patties that broke apart easily, a highly-griddled bun that didn’t get soggy, and also the exclusive usage of American cheese, the ONLY ACCEPTABLE CHEESE on burgers. They aren’t perfect (they have a tendency to undercook the griddled onions, which doesn’t let them properly caramelize), however are definitely within the In-N-Out,/Shake Shack pantheon of quality fast-casual burger chains that sit above all the other major players.
Essentially it’s only a grilled cheese, but with an added burger patty and grilled onions. The patty melt benefits from the fact that they flip over a regular bun and double grill it as to what would normally become the within the bun as the outside, and 2 layers of cheese encasing the burger patty. The grilled onions inside 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 sausages, two other sandwiches, two orders of fries, and 2 milkshakes. I believe my body created another stomach just to sate my needs.