Having turned to the franchise model for expansion in 2002, over a grand of units now exist in the U.S. and the land of the Canucks. To say Five Guys are expanding relatively swiftly is like saying B.A. Baracus has a mild distaste for air travel.
Now, Rob reviewed a Brooklyn outpost of Five Guys last year, but to save you the trip here are the salient points:
Well finally, the Murrells have sailed the Atlantic aboard the Carphone Warehouse yacht and landed a squeaky fart away from London's Leicester Square. And it sounds like they won't stop there, with several rumoured sites being scouted in Islington and, erm, Reading.
The decor is two-tone white and red Americana; a checkerboard pattern stripes along the tiled counter and walls, and borders some of the signs and menu boards. The minimalist pattern is mirrored on the potato sacks piled up like sand bags to identify where to queue, and the peanut boxes which are splayed open for customers to snack on while they wait for their burgers.
Everything deliberately avoids an overstylised look, giving it all a distinct homemade diner feel. The nearest comparison over here would be a Manze's Pie 'n Mash shop, bar the sawdust on the floor. Or the oft-mourned, once great THATburger in Watford, which closed a few years ago now, but was way ahead of the curve.
Food comes in plain brown bags. Burgers come wrapped in plain tin foil. Yup, it's that simple. The menu is In 'n Out-ly basic, a standard burger coming double pattied (a sentiment they share with Electric Diner), with single-patty 'little' ones available too, presumably for children and losers. It's the burger done in a classic style. A bunch of free toppings are at your disposal too (the notably distinct 'Britishness' being the omission of A1 sauce but inclusion of HP sauce on the menu), and if you trust the Guys, take their hand and have it All The Way. Like going to fourth base with your food.
The fun can be had through the ease of just dipping in for a quick, quality hamburger on the fly, or the return visits to concoct yet another debauched collaboration of ingredients.
The Choice is the thing
Now, Five Guys is fine. But where it really shines is with people who aren't like us.
People who don't like pickle, for example. Or insist on ketchup on everything. Or those who think a slice of tomato in a burger is a sackable offence. Choosy fuckers, essentially. 5G has really won their hearts with all of the options they could ever dream of, eclipsing memories of special sauce they didn't like, or raw onion nightmares.
The thing is we do tend to opt for the HI WE'LL HAVE ALL OF THE THINGS school of menu strategy, and their 'All The Way' burger is, well, a bit of a state.
So our advice with 5G is be choosy. Try different combinations until you've found your favourite and then watch them spread like wildfire across the South of England.
- Rob & Simon.