Founded in 1986, the Washington DC burger chain was voted the most popular fast food restaurant in the US for the second consecutive year in 2018. In doing so, the company and their simple menu buck the trend towards luxury burgers as well as healthy eating. Since 2016, their expansion into the Middle East and Europe is in full swing, with 100 new branches opening every year. What are Five Guys doing right?
After 32 years, Five Guys is still a true family business. Jerry Murrell and his now five sons Jim, Matt, Chad, Ben and Tyler, together with co-founder Janie Murrell are the company’s backbone. They are involved in business management, training, franchise management and even overseeing the company’s own bread roll bakery. After gaining a following on the US East Coast and then successfully expanding into the highly competitive West Coast burger market, the Five Guys have also started to expand to Europe in 2016, further targeting Middle East and Asia.
How can their success be explained?
Success factor product: simply high quality
There are countless burger chains in the US. But many of them carry the image of serving inferior junk food. This is where Five Guys came in and started to dominate the so-called better-burger market segment, offering high quality burgers and hot dogs, but also much-praised fries made with peanut oil.
The staff can be observed through all stages of preparing the food in an open kitchen. An increasing desire for regional ingredients is also taken into account: the origin of the meat or the potatoes used are on display in every restaurant. This promotes trust and also a personal relationship with the employees / the brand.
Success factor reduction: no frills, lots of taste
No exotic ingredients, no gourmet options, just two burger patties between home-baked brioche buns. The Five Guys menu is pretty plain. At the same time, customers can build their favorite personal burger from a generous list of extras.
The restaurants themselves, with their simple but compelling style in white and red, are clean and focus on the essentials. There is no table service, orders and pick-up happen at the counter. This keeps costs low and underlines the message – it’s all about good taste! The image of providing an unhealthy “Guilty Pleasure” is gladly accepted.
Success factor customer experience: secret shoppers & more
Five Guys’ main focus lies on a good customer experience in their restaurants. Therefore, they invest the largest part of their marketing budget in a very complex mystery shopping concept in which each branch is visited twice a week. Employees who are rated as most courteous and professional by the mystery shoppers will then receive a bonus. This motivates employees to a consistently high service quality, which in turn delights the customers, setting a positive spiral in motion.
Success factor social media: staying close to the customers
Generating word-of-mouth promotion has been a central element in Five Guys’ marketing budget from the outset. In addition to their elaborate mystery shopping system, they heavily rely on social media. Again, customer service plays a big part, with social media comments being tracked and teams encouraged to engage directly with customers as much as possible. This works both on an international and a local level – local franchisees can react promptly to the praise and complaints of their own restaurant and, if necessary, quickly take action.
In addition, regular hashtag campaigns promote the constant flow of user-generated content from customers as well as store employees. This will in turn be evaluated for future promotions and community promoting activities.
Success factor franchise: learning from the best
Despite a growing fan base, Five Guys initially grew rather slowly. In the first ten years, one restaurant turned into four. Then the Murrells decided to work with experienced franchise consultants Fransmart. Their experience and expertise helped to build a successful franchise concept that enabled 1000 more Five Guys restaurants over the subsequent four years – and now the global expansion.
Five Guys now serve their down-to-earth burgers in over 100 stores in Europe, Dubai and Hong Kong.