The Post today has a really good article on Five Guys, Northern Virginia’s famous local burger chain. Starting with five locations four years ago and standing at 87 and counting today, the restaurant is expanding rapidly in coverage and value.
Today the business is by some estimates heading toward $1 billion in value. Five Guys has 87 locations. Most are in the Washington region, but a hundred more will open along the East Coast this year, and another thousand are being phased in. Each store, the company says, pulls in about $1 million a year.
One of the things I love about Five Guys, and about many of my other favorite establishments, is the passion to do one thing and do it well. This is captured in the article’s description of how the brothers running the company fight about things like whether tomatoes should go on top of pickles, or pickles on top of tomatoes, and the arcane arguments in favor of each configuration. The Hamburger Hamlet, in contrast…
But places like the Hamburger Hamlet aren’t exactly worried. Leon Hines, the manager of the Hamlet in the Rio Entertainment Center, didn’t even know there was a Five Guys in the nearby Kentlands. Besides, he said, his restaurant offers a more traditional restaurant experience. “We’re selling more than hamburgers,” he said. “We’ve got salads. We’ve got steaks.”
Amanda at Metrocurean worries that Five Guys’ growth threatens its status as a hometown treasure. Personally, I’ll be glad to have their burgers available all over the place as long as they preserve their high standards. To that end, it’s interesting to read about their quality control measures. These range from limiting the number of times a burger is pressed on the grill to one, to shaking French fry batches fifteen times, to a restrictive franchising policy that requires owners to purchases a minimum of five locations. That high startup hurdle helps limit their franchisees to serious professionals.
East Coasters, find your nearest Five Guys here.