My friend Alyssa tells a story about being in five guys near me 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 the right amount of guys.”
After I started scripting this, friends, I had a longer, 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.
“If you can give a good haircut or when you can serve an excellent drink at a bar or whenever you can serve an excellent hamburger, you could generate income in the united states.” — Five Guys founder Jerry Murrell’s mother
Where did Five Guys originate 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. Because they started the place with their parents, that constituted “Five Guys,” and thus that name was born (and subsequently, a younger brother will be born 2 yrs later, offering them 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 made to buy, they introduced complimentary shelled peanuts as something to eat when you waited.
The spot took off, therefore, on the next 20 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 all over the world. According to 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 idea of fast-food burger chains versus fast-casual is actually a scary topic for me personally. As an example, In-N-Out naturally suits this conversation (and has 340 locations) because the burger is often discussed (by me, no less, later), in the national conversation of cult chain burgers along the majority of these joints, but it is more fast food than fast casual (the presence of drive-thrus in most locations is definitely the differentiator for me personally). But this shit is hard to define, and giving me anxiety, so let’s just move on.
What is Five Guys trying to do now? With this particular hyper-aggressive expansion plan, Five Guys is extremely clearly trying to exert their influence within the Great Burger Wars of the fast-casual era. Along with nearly four times the quantity of restaurants as their next biggest rival, they’ve got a remarkable jump start. Also, quite famously, they never advertised in any way until around three years back — which, if you feel about it, is kind of an easy method of advertising in itself amirite?!? And even then, their ad footprint was purposefully small, and really only online and with social networking. These are savvy Guys (and Girls).
How I did it: During the period of 2 weeks, I visited two Northern California Five Guys an overall total of 3 times. I ordered every single item on the actual menu, plus one off-menu item, and ate a lot of peanuts for no reason at all as i was waiting.
A note on the peanuts: They’re fine? Shelling peanuts is more about the process for me, that i found mildly relaxing. But ultimately, 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 hours upon them.
Five Stars/Guys Who Definitely Are Enjoyable To Be 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: 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 that fhyxvv food vs fast-casual debate I mentioned earlier.) But after spending the last few years eating 330 burgers from independent restaurants across the country, I hadn’t been back to what time does five guys close.
But lo and behold, upon my revisits the burgers were again a small revelation. Each time, I saw char on the meat, hand-formed patties that broke apart easily, a highly-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 have a tendency to undercook the griddled onions, which doesn’t permit them to properly caramelize), however they 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 simply a grilled cheese, though with an additional burger patty and grilled onions. The patty melt benefits from the reality that they flip spanning a regular bun and double grill it with what would normally function as the within the bun since the outside, and two 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 hot dogs, two other sandwiches, two orders of fries, as well as 2 milkshakes. I believe my body created another stomach just to sate my needs.