You couldn’t move for burgers in London last year, but noticeable by its absence was US fast-food phenomenon Five Guys. Not for long. The first London branch opens today. Ben Norum finds five ways to prove it’s more than just another patty joint…
1. It’s the real deal
Forget all those Lower East Side-referencing London burger shacks run by heavily tattooed ex-public school boys – Five Guys is the genuine US mom ’n’ pop article. It was started in 1986 by a Virginia couple and their four sons. Twenty-five years (and another son) later, they have more than 1,100 branches across America and Canada – and the five sons are still in charge. They’re a bit like the Waltons. The meaty Waltons.
2. It’s big…
Five Guys accounts for more than half of the so-called ‘better burger’ market (ie those made to order with fresh ingredients) in the States. And it’s getting bigger. Between 2010 and 2011 it grew by 38%, making Five Guys officially the fastest-expanding fast-food chain ever. Five new franchises open in the USA every week.
3. …and the menu’s small (but the choice is huge)
Easily confused by menus? Five Guys might be for you. It simply does burgers and hot dogs, with fries. That’s it. However, you can customise your choice with as many as you like of 15 free toppings (262,143 combinations, if you ‘do the math’). The London branch has a unique one that acknowledges our regional difference: HP Sauce. Though why anyone would want to ruin a great burger with brown sauce is a mystery to us.
4. The Coke flows like water. So do the peanuts
Five Guys in Covent Garden is the first place in the UK to have Coca-Cola Freestyle machines. These offer unlimited refills of 125 different drink flavours (yes, you read that correctly – 125!) including peach Sprite. US stores additionally offer free peanuts (though these may not be taken off-site) which people can often be seen happily munching away on while waiting for their order to be cooked.
5. It rejects refrigeration
In your face, the twentieth century! Five Guys scorns bulk food storage and has a commitment to ‘no freezers’ in its outlets (as fittings: you could probably take one in as a customer if you insisted). Instead, all meat and potatoes are fresh (from British and Irish farms at the UK branch). It seems to work: Time Out New York voted it ‘#1 burger for lunch’. And they should know.