My buddy Alyssa tells a story about being in five guys burger 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 talking 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 writing this, friends, I had a lengthier, drawn-out story here. However, when I heard that, I deleted everything. Because dammit if this Sam Adams-swilling street poet didn’t sum it perfectly.
“When you can offer a good haircut or whenever you can serve an excellent drink with a bar or whenever you can serve a great hamburger, you can always earn money in the usa.” — Five Guys founder Jerry Murrell’s mother
Where did Five Guys come from? In 1986, the 4 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 could be born 2 yrs later, providing them with five actual guys as sons). The guidelines were simple: hand-formed, fresh-ground beef; fries cooked in peanut oil; no freezers. As each burger was created to buy, they introduced complimentary shelled peanuts as something to snack on when you waited.
The place took off, therefore, within the next 20 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 around the globe. In accordance with 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 really a scary topic to me. For instance, In-N-Out naturally fits into this conversation (and contains 340 locations) as the burger is usually discussed (by me, no less, later), in the national conversation of cult chain burgers along many of these joints, yet it is more fast food than fast casual (the existence of drive-thrus in many locations will be the differentiator for me personally). But this shit is hard to define, and giving me anxiety, so let’s just move on.
Precisely what is Five Guys trying to do now? With this particular hyper-aggressive expansion plan, Five Guys is quite clearly trying to exert their influence inside the Great Burger Wars in the fast-casual era. With nearly 4x the volume of restaurants as his or her next biggest rival, they’ve got a remarkable head start. Also, quite famously, they never advertised in any way until around three in the past — which, if you feel about it, is kind of a way of advertising by itself amirite?!? And also then, their ad footprint was purposefully small and really only online and with social media marketing. These are savvy Guys (and Girls).
The Way I did it: Over the course of two weeks, I visited 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 lot of peanuts for no reason while I was waiting.
A note on the peanuts: They’re fine? Shelling peanuts is a lot more about the process for me, which I found mildly relaxing. But in the long run, they’re still just peanuts, and since the phrase “I got 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 Become Around: Many moons ago, I reviewed virtually every major chain cheeseburger. Much to the chagrin of my In-N-Out fanboy California family, I proclaimed Five Guys as having the best. (Note: it was before Shake Shake began their intensive expansion, so that they weren’t yet within the mix, and it had been a confusing time for your fhyxvv food vs fast-casual debate I mentioned earlier.) But after spending recent years eating 330 burgers from independent restaurants nationwide, I hadn’t been returning to https://www.storeholidayhours.org/five-guys-burgers-fries-holiday-hours-open-closed-today/.
But lo and behold, upon my revisits the burgers were again a minor revelation. 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 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 let them properly caramelize), but 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, though 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 be the inside the bun since the outside, and 2 layers of cheese encasing the burger patty. The grilled onions within the mix helps make 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 sausages, two other sandwiches, two orders of fries, as well as 2 milkshakes. I believe my body created another stomach simply to sate my needs.