The Untold Truth Of Five Guys
The growth of the Five Guys Burgers and Fries
chain is nothing short of amazing, and the
story behind it will make you believe anything
With founders who have remained an integral
part of their company, franchisees who aren’t
just buying a brand name but an entire formula,
and a company built from the ground up, Five
Guys has a story that embraces what the American
dream once was… and still can be.
Choosing to cook
Five Guys’ founding father Jerry Murrell hails
from a middle-class Michigan family, which
encouraged him to go to college.
He didn’t enjoy his own educational experience
much, though, so when it came time to send
his sons to college, he gave them a choice.
The money he’d saved for their education was
theirs, and they could either each go to college,
or — as a family — decide to pool the
money to start a restaurant.
Not only would it give his kids a legacy,
but it would let them work together, and their
limited-menu concept was a sweeping success.
“We stuck to our guns, kept it simple and
the press liked us.”
What’s in a name?
The name Five Guys couldn’t be more straightforward.
Murrell and his sons decided on the name to
describe themselves: father Jerry, sons Matt,
Jim, and Chad from his first marriage, and
son Ben from his second.
But when youngest son Tyler was born, the
name didn’t quite fit anymore, so he unofficially
removed himself from the name roster so that
the “five guys” he refers to are his kids.
And all remain key players in the business.
While their father oversees everything, Jim
and Matt travel the country and visit locations,
Chad is in charge of training, Ben works with
the franchise owners and selects new applicants,
and Tyler runs the bakery.
Murrell’s second wife, Janie, is also involved
in the business as their bookkeeper.
Finding a franchise
Five Guys opened its doors in 1986, and it’s
only continued to grow ever since.
The chain saw an almost unthinkable 792 percent
growth between 2006 and 2012, but that global
expansion almost didn’t happen.
At first, the Murrells — especially Jerry
— were content with opening just a few restaurants
in the same area.
They had complete control, kept the menu the
same, and experimented with very few new things.
But Matt bought a copy of Franchising for
Dummies, written by Wendy’s Dave Thomas…
and at the same time, former Washington Redskins
kicker Mark Moseley was pondering the future
of his own burger joint.
In a case of, “right place, right time,” Moseley
got on board with Five Guys and kicked off
their franchising efforts.
They found out quickly how right of a decision
it was when franchising rights in Virginia
sold out in three days, and the rest is fast
There are a ton of things to keep track of
in any kitchen, but take a close look at any
Five Guys kitchen and you’ll notice there’s
something missing: timers.
Jerry Murrell says they’re not necessary because
good cooks know when a burger is done.
Those burgers are thin for a reason, too,
and that dates back to the early days of Five
The first burgers they experimented with were
thicker, but they dried out too fast.
So, thinner burgers gave them the taste and
texture they were looking for – and patrons
seem to enjoy the choice.
No VIP deliveries
Getting a phone call from the U.S. government
might ordinarily throw a restaurant into a
tailspin, but when Five Guys was asked for
15 burgers to be delivered to the Pentagon,
He told QSR:
“We’ve never had a delivery service.
We don’t believe in it.
We think it cheapens the product.”
Not only did they refuse, but they hung a
massive banner outside their Arlington store
that read, “Absolutely No Delivery.”
“Putting a sign in your window that says ‘We
deliver’ is probably a sign that you’re maybe
The move was risky, since the Pentagon’s 26,000
employees were a huge part of the location’s
customer base, but it worked.
Business reportedly went up about 20 percent,
and even Barack Obama stopped by 2009 — after
they also refused to offer any delivery service
to the White House — because some foods are
worth trekking out for.
“We’re gonna go get some burgers.”
Five Guys gets their potatoes almost exclusively
from Idaho — and only north of the 42nd
parallel to boot.
“Those potatoes grow slower than potatoes
from the south which makes them denser.”
They buy so many of them they account for
5 percent of the entire state’s potato sales.
Two months of the year, however, the growing
season dictates they switch to Washington
And the reason their fries are so tasty goes
well beyond source consistency.
After hand-cutting them, Five Guys fry crewmembers
give the raw potatoes a 3-minute power wash
to get rid of the extra starch, and they’re
pre-cooked for two and a half minutes before
being cooled for anywhere from 10 minutes
to a few hours.
Once they’re ordered, they’re finished off
with another two or three minutes in the frier,
shaken off exactly 15 times, and served up
to the customers.
There’s a lot about the way Five Guys does
business that’s unconventional, and that includes
their approach to getting the word out.
According to BestMark, the reason you’ve never
seen a Five Guys commercial or billboard is
that they use that cash to hire mystery shoppers
to visit their restaurants and do a full evaluation.
This keeps employees on their toes, ensures
their customers have a great experience, and
those experiences turn into word-of-mouth
Anyone who’s worked in retail knows just how
terrifying the prospect of a mystery shopper
is, but Five Guys turns it into a major rewards
Director of Communications and Marketing Molly
Catalano told QSR Magazine they hand out a
huge amount of money as bonuses for meeting
mystery shopper goals.
Every week, the top 200 restaurants are each
given between $900 and $1,300 to split among
employees, which means there’s a chance they
can win a bonus every single week.
That’s quite an incentive to hustle.
So, if your local Five Guys crew seem to keep
some serious pep in their steps during your
next visit, it might be because they suspect
you’re a shopper spy that might earn them
some extra cash.
Thanks for watching!
Click the Mashed icon to subscribe to our
Plus check out all this cool stuff we know
you’ll love, too!