Most carnivores and omnivores have experienced at one time or another the feeling of being overcome by a sudden, intense desire to sink one’s teeth deep into a big, juicy hamburger. Five Guys Burgers  and Fries has grown to 400 units by catering to that specific desire. The chain offers a limited menu of hamburgers, with or without cheese and bacon, and the occasional hot dog. Doug McKinney, director of training for the Lorton, Va.-based Five Guys, says the limited menu allows the chain to focus all of its energy on executing those few items “perfectly.”
How important is “crave-ability” to Five Guys’ success?
It’s absolutely critical. We really only do a couple of things, and there’s an upside and a downside to that. The upside is that it allows us to focus every ounce of energy on the quality of our burgers and fries. But on the downside, if it’s not the best hamburger and the best fry, we don’t have any fallback items. We do have a hot dog, but it’s really about the burgers.
How do you maintain that quality?BONUS POINT
“The category has been undergoing a major revival in the last 24 to 36 months. [It] is the almost universal ‘crave-ability’ of the hamburger.… The product appeal really cuts across gender lines and age categories and income categories, and all the other sort of demographic buckets. The burger category really transcends.”—Nancy Kruse, president, The Kruse Report, Atlanta
We stress that our franchisees, managers and hourly employees are really fanatical about quality. Most chains or restaurants like ours are focused on food costs. And we want the mentality that if that burger or those fries aren’t perfect, they aren’t going over the counter. If you need to throw it away, that’s OK. Obviously, we don’t want to be wasteful, but we just have to have outstanding burgers and fries every time.
To what would you attribute your success?
It’s the value that the customers think they’re getting. It’s a lot of food for the money. And while it is more expensive than some of the other chains, the customers feel like they’re getting value for their money.
All Five Guys’ burgers are cooked to well done. How do you do that and still keep them juicy?
More than anything else it’s training the eye of the cook to know when that burger is just right, because once it’s done if you leave it on the grill for just 30 seconds more, it will start to get dry. That’s really where our focus is. We do not have timers or anything like that. We want it to look and feel and be like a mom-and-pop, almost like a short-order kitchen. It’s just an absolute fanaticism about those burgers being perfect or we’re not using them.— [email protected]