After hearing my friend and collaborator Marty sing the praises of burgers from Five Guys, I finally got my chance this past Sunday, 6/15/2014, to eat at a Five Guys (in this case, their location in Canton on Boston Street).
My immediate observation was Five Guys is – no more, no less – a fast food hamburger joint (with over 1,000 locations in 47 US states and 6 Canadian provinces). It differs from other fast food burger places (e.g., McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King) because:
- Five Guys has a pretty limited menu (basically what most people come for are the burgers, fries and soft drinks but also hot dogs and a few sandwiches)
- Five Guys provides you a list of a dozen or so free “toppings” that you can customize your burger
- Five Guys gives you free “all you can eat” roasted peanuts
- Five Guys – for a basic burger, soft drink and fries combo – is 20-30% MORE expensive than their competition
Burgers come in two sizes – regular and “little”. I found out that the difference is that the regular size ($5.59) includes two hamburger patties and the “little” size ($3.89) includes just one pattie. You can bacon and/or cheese – a regular Bacon/Cheeseburger costs 7.29. The burgers come with your choice of toppings but come only well-done (No medium or medium rare burgers at Five Guys!) As best as we could figure, each pattie is about 4 oz. For those of you concerned about calories, without condiments or toppings, a plain “little” burger has 480 calories, the regular size burger has 700 calories and the regular bacon/cheese burger has 920 calories.
If you’re looking for something other than a burger, there’s hot dogs ($3.66 – $5.39), Grilled Cheese ($3.69), BLT ($5.19), Veg ($2.99 – basically whatever veggie toppings you pick; Add cheese and it’s $3.69);
Toppings include: lettuce, tomato, mushrooms, onions, green pepper, jalapenos, Mayo, Heinz Ketchup, French’s Yellow mustard, Cattleman’s BBQ Sauce, Frank’s original hot sauce, Mt. Olive kosher dill pickle slices, Mt. Olive sweet green relish.
Fries are available in small, medium and large sizes and both as regular or Cajun style ($2.29 – $4.69). Our friend, JT, noted a nice touch when it comes to Five Guys fries:
“when fries are ordered, the cardboard container of the appropriate size ordered is placed in a little brown bag, and a “scoopful” (or a half-scoop) of extra fries is usually thrown in for good measure, overflowing the capacity of the cardboard container”
Soft Drinks (Coca Cola products are $2.09 for regular, $2.29 for large; the regular is a coated cardboard that starts getting weak around the edges after the 2nd refill while the large is a plastic cup)
The peanuts are right tasty and in the location we visited were available in “help yourself” big boxes at the front and rear of the dining area.
When you order, you’re assigned a number; when you’re order is ready, one of staff yells out your number and you pick up your order; whether “eat in” or “take out”, your sandwich is wrapped up in a sheet of aluminum foil and put in a brown paper bag.
Our friend Jim had a Bacon Cheese Burger ($7.29), no fries and a large soft drink ($2.29). He was pleased with his meal but we’ll note that his meal cost him over $10 with tax (if he added even a small fries, his burger meal would have been close to $13.) My buddy Marty got a “Little Burger” and customized it with onions, mushrooms, and jalapenos. John ordered a “Little Burger” with onions, mushrooms, lettuce, tomato and green pepper). Marty is the kind of guy who orders everything (meat, fish, chicken) “well done” so he’s cool with a well done burger. John by contrast orders meat when he has the chance “medium rare”; John admits that his burger though well-done wasn’t dried out and that was a good thing. Marty swears that a Five Guys burger is the best he’s ever had (but upon further discussion, he admitted that he never had just a plain Five Guys burger without a slew of toppings and perhaps it was the addition of all the toppings that appealed to him. John tried some of his burger minus all the toppings and couldn’t see where a Five Guys burger was noticeably different from the equivalent at the competition (He concluded that Marty’s observation about all of toppings making a different hit the nail on the head)
Our buddy Tom had a small hot dog ($3.69) which he wasn’t thrilled with…
“I was looking forward to a kosher dog that would crunch and pop when you bit into it. Instead I got a deflated half a hot dog with no flavor at all….sigh. In other words, it did not taste bad but I was surprised it did not have much taste at all. It could be accurately described as a bland-ish flat filet of a food substance masquerading as a kosher dog mit onions. A hotdog should not be filleted. What were they thinking? You might as well start serving hotdog octopuses and crabs”
Tom said that he wouldn’t order a Five Guys hot dog again.
Our friend Paul had a “Little” burger ($3.89), small Cajun fries ($2.29) and a soft drink ($2.09); though Paul would normally – when he has the option – order his burger “Medium Rare”, he liked his burger and polished it all off. He didn’t seem as pleased with his Cajun fries and left most un-eaten (for which John was thankful since he got to eat them and thought that they were right good!). His “little” burger combo meal cost him over $8.
My friend Jerry said: “the one thing I like at 5 guys are the fries. There is no difference between their burger and the burger from Wendy’s. And they way overcharge you.”
Five Guys is full of self-promoting, pat themselves on the back posters on the walls. They make a big point about being Zagat rated. Yeah? So what? Do they publish the actual Zagat ratings? No. Do they discuss how they convinced Zagat to rate Five Guys when Zagat refuses to rate any of their fast food burger joint competition? No.
Consider that many fast food burger-philes routinely order a reduced price “combo” with burger, fries and a soft drink. Does Five Guys offer a reduced “combo” price? No.
A Five Guys burger ($5.59), small fries ($2.29) and a soft drink ($2.09) adds up to over $10 for what their competition sells for at least $2-3+ less. Seems to me that the cost of the “free” toppings and “free” peanuts or “heaping” fries is bundled into (and then some!) into Five Guys prices.
My visit to Five Guys (and my sampling of just the burger without the toppings) left me wondering how much of Five Guys success is due to their marketing cleverness in differentiating themselves from their fast food burger competition by somehow finessing a rating from Zagat in addition to including “toppings” and roasted peanuts and how much is actually due to the quality of their burgers. My suspicion is that if I put a burger minus the bun and packaging in front of Marty (or the average Five Guys customer) from Five Guys, McDonalds, Wendy’s and Burger King, he’d be hard pressed to tell which burger came from which fast food joint. I don’t dislike Five Guys burgers, I think that their marketing people deserve kudos for getting people to pay 30%+ more for a customized burger with onion, mushroooms & peppers on it. (and heck even at that – a Five Guys bacon Cheeseburger “combo” will cost you $12+! Ouch!)
FACTS: Five Guys – Canton – 3600 Boston Street; http://www.fiveguys.com ; open for lunch/dinner daily from 11 am to 9 pm; no alcohol, very limited vegetarian options, adjacent free parking