Five Guys Sign - © 2024 - lovewimbledon org

Five Guys: Pricing Itself Out Of Business?

The Five Guys chain was founded in Arlington, Virginia, way back in 1986. It’s named for the 5 sons of Jerry and Janie Murrell. Five Guys has been a big hit. It’s grown in leaps and bounds. But now, fans are mad. And it’s taking an economic hit…

Five Guys Tab - © 2024 - via Reddit

A receipt for a single-burger lunch at Five Guys premium burger joint:
“Fast food becoming a luxury meal is a sign of the times.”

An American success story

Dad Gerry Murrell’s Mom told him: “If you can give a good haircut or if you can serve a good drink at a bar or if you can serve a good hamburger, you can always make money in America.”

The Gerry and Janey Murrell offered their 5 sons a choice: “Start a business or go to college.” The business route won. The first Five Guys was a carry-out burger joint in Arlington Virginia.

From the start, Five Guys served, “only hand-formed burgers cooked to perfection on a grill along with fresh-cut fries cooked in pure peanut oil.”

Explosive expansion

With franchising, Five Guys has enjoyed explosive expansion. “Now, 30 years after Five Guys first opened, there are almost 1,700 locations worldwide and another 1,500 units in development.

Over the years, they’ve enjoyed ample media attention – all good. And their burgers have earned a strong following among foodies and common folks, alike. Until now.

Soaring prices

Just one problem. Five Guys were always an expensive Fast Food burger option. Now, like other Fast Food joints, Five Guys franchisees have had to raise their menu prices to keep body and soul – and livelihood – together.

And that’s sent fans on a rampage. On social media, that is. Not rioting in the streets.

A Redditor posted a photo of a Five Guys receipt showing the details of a – brace yourself – $24.00 single-burger lunch. The total includes tax and a 10 percent tip. But it’s still crazy, in the estimation of many of us ordinary folks. I mean, really!

First, immediate observation: That’s even worse than the $17 (all-in) McDonald’s lunch from Connecticut that enraged social media types a couple of weeks ago.

Second, Those Five Guys Fries. They cost $5.19! The receipt calls them a ‘Little Fry’. I wonder what a big one would cost? They don’t say anywhere on their website. But that’s a trend these days, to allow for moment-to-moment price changes and regional variations.

But the fact remains: Fries are the cheapest menu item for any Fast Food  operation to make – except the fountain drinks. That $5.19 price is probably at least 80 percent profit – including the cost of the container. And that $2.89 fountain drink? It’s probably about 90 percent profit. So Five Guys does have some leeway for price moderation, to sooth their psychically bruised fans.

Other costs a problem?

Five Guys proudly proclaims its stores have no freezers – just coolers. That’s their way of saying nothing they serve was ever frozen. Fair enough, But sourcing and storing fresh meat is a relatively costly endeavour. And I’ll grant you, that peanut oil they use for the fries isn’t cheap. Not to mention their longstanding policy of not charging for toppings.

But I don’t believe those costs can account for a $7 difference between the Five Guys price and the same meal at McDonald’s.

The social media speak

Twitter followers spoke their minds when the story landed on that platform:

“Fast food becoming a luxury meal is a sign of the times.”

“It’s always been like that. I would rather buy a steak at the [grocery] store at this point.”

“Stop eating there.”

But one commenter, among a distinct minority, opined: “My controversial opinion is that given the price of bacon and beef if you’re paying less than ~ $12 for a burger, you probably really shouldn’t eat it.”

My take

I’ve already made comments at several points throughout this post. But I want to make my overall position clear.

Five Guys set themselves up for this crisis themselves when they chose to go the ‘premium’ route, with fresh meat, peanut oil and free condiments.

Now they’re in a bind. They either alienate their customers further or suffer a cut to their profits. They’ll have to sacrifice profits on the fries and drinks, or start charging for the condiments. Or something. As in ‘something has to give’. Or they’re going to be history.

~ Maggie J.