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The KISS of the Five Guys Burgers and Fries Menu: Keep it Simple, Stupid

by Sherman Morrison on December 3, 2014

in Hamburger Franchise, Menu Reviews



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Five Guys Burgers and Fries Franchise Photo by Lodigs

This Franchise Chatter guide on the Five Guys Burgers and Fries menu was written by Sherman Morrison.

Five Guys Burgers and Fries is the granddaddy of the “better burger” movement that got its start back in the late 1980s. Jerry Murrell’s five sons are the actual Five Guys while he himself remains in the CEO position. Part of the chain’s success can be attributed to the company taking the time to perfect its offerings over more than a decade, throughout the 1990s. After getting the franchise ball rolling in 2003, the company now has more than 1,000 locations, with another 1,500 in development.

While Five Guys menu prices are higher than your average fast-food burger joint, what the company prides itself on is the high quality of its food. That quality is theoretically high enough that the company does not engage in any paid advertising. And so far, so good. But how does the Five Guys Burgers and Fries menu really stack up?

One important thing to realize from the start is what’s not on the menu. It’s a burger joint that doesn’t offer milkshakes. While this might cause alarm to some, it’s really a well-thought-out, intentional choice. Messing around with things like milkshakes or desserts would distract them from doing what they do best – burgers and fries. Never mind that all of their food is so fresh, their stores don’t even have freezers in them.



That’s not to say they don’t recognize the need for variety, which is why they do offer hot dogs and a few sandwiches, but every item must fit in with their ideas about quality. A milkshake being dispensed from a machine just doesn’t fit the Five Guys vision.

The chain takes the KISS approach – Keep it simple, stupid. The following Five Guys menu analysis includes nutritional information for many of the items because it’s clear these guys aren’t going to win any healthy eating awards any time soon. But that may be a big part of why the food tastes so darn good.

Burgers

The Five Guys approach to building a better burger is pretty straightforward. Cook it to order every single time on a grill clearly visible to customers. Make it from fresh (never frozen) 80/20 ground chuck (80% lean, 20% fat), which is high quality ground beef containing only steer and heifer meat, and which does not include any cow meat or fatty trimmings. Five Guys does not use ammoniated procedures to treat its ground beef, which means there is none of that dreaded pink slime in its burgers.

The bun is toasted on the grill (the only way to get that “caramelized” taste), and they don’t charge extra for whatever combination of 15 different toppings a customer wants.

Hamburger. Note that a standard burger at Five Guys comes with TWO patties. If you only want a single-patty burger, be sure to order the “little” version. There’s also no masking the fact that their burgers are quite greasy. Oddly enough, however, this is greasy in a good way. It’s like the difference between having something cooked in real butter versus putting that scary butter-flavored syrup stuff on your popcorn at a movie theater.

This basic 2-patty burger packs 700 calories with no toppings. To put that in perspective, a McDonald’s Big Mac weighs in at 540 calories and its Quarter Pounder at 410 calories, and both figures include all the toppings.

Cheeseburger. Now take that basically very delicious burger and add… cheese! Such a simple addition, but it makes all the difference. It helps that they use real deli-style American cheese, not some kind of processed cheese product that comes in slices individually wrapped in plastic film. No, this is the real deal.

And because they’re taking the time to grill your burger to order, they have time to let that cheese properly melt, allowing its flavor to become infused throughout the toppings and the patty itself. How many times have you ordered a cheese burger from one of the fast-food giants only to find that the cheese, which is typically low-quality, hasn’t even been allowed to melt, like at all. That will never happen to you at Five Guys.

This item packs in 840 calories and 26.5 grams of saturated fat. It makes you say ouch and yum all in the same breath.



Bacon Burger. You’ve probably heard it said that bacon makes just about anything better, and this appears to hold true for Five Guys burgers. They obviously take nearly as much care in frying their bacon as they do in making their fries (more on that below) because it comes out with just the right level of super-crispiness. No limp bacon on these burgers!

This item also ups the calories to a whopping 720. But make no mistake, it’s delicious. You’re just not going to lose any weight eating this burger, and as long as you can reconcile yourself to that, you’re in for a mouth-watering, delightful experience.

Bacon Cheeseburger. And here you have the perfect trifecta – burger, cheese and bacon, all in one deliciously grilled experience that will leave your mouth watering for more. That perfect trifecta also comes with a big dietary punch: 920 calories along with a day-and-a-half’s worth of saturated fat at 30 grams.

The Little Guys. As previously mentioned, all the above burgers come with two patties as the Five Guys standard. Each one can also be ordered in a “little” version that has only one patty.

So that’s it – 4 very basic burgers in two different sizes each that everyone seems to find rather irresistible. The key to making it your own, of course, is in the toppings, which include the following: Mayo, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, grilled onions, grilled mushrooms, ketchup, mustard, relish, onions, jalapeño peppers, green peppers, A1 Steak Sauce, bar-B-Q sauce, and hot sauce.

Fries

Everyone seems to agree that the Five Guys have done something very right with their fries. It begins with sourcing the right potatoes – they need to be good and solid, which means they have to be grown as far north as possible. So Five Guys gets most of their potatoes from Idaho, even though it would be cheaper to get them from California or Florida growers.

Whereas many chains use dehydrated frozen fries, Five Guys cuts the fries fresh in the store (which is why you see bags of potatoes stacked all over their restaurants), soaks them in water, pre-fries them to get the water out and form a seal so that when they are fried the second time, they don’t absorb the peanut oil or come out too greasy.

A “fry calibration” training session can last two days to get the right mix of starch, water and temperature needed for perfect fries – no timers allowed in Five Guys restaurants because they believe good cooking is about developing a feel for it.

Take-out at Five Guys is accomplished with a plain brown paper bag, which inevitably shows an alarming number of grease spots as the fries always end up everywhere, but again, this is greasy in a very good way.

Five Guys Style. These are regular fries that are salted, but not too heavily. They are crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. It’s hard to imagine how a French fry could get any more perfect than this. And once again the calories show it: Around 600 calories for a regular order or 1,400 for a large, which is like three large order of McDonald’s fries, which means they certainly don’t skimp on the quantity.

Remember to steer clear if you have peanut allergies – the store is full of peanuts, and the fries are cooked in peanut oil as well.

Cajun Style. These are seasoned with more salt than the regular fries, with the addition of other spices that give them a nice kick without sending you too far over the edge. Like the regular fries, they are fresh-cut from potatoes in the store with the skins left on. The expertly calibrated frying process leaves them with a crispy outer shell that miraculously leaves the inside both moist and flavorful.

Interestingly enough, there is no separate information available on the nutritional specs for the Cajun fries, so apparently the extra seasoning doesn’t make much of a dietary difference, although one can’t help but suspect if the sodium content is higher on this item. Oh, and if the quantities of the regular and large seem like just too much, you can also get a “little” order of fries, which only has a little over 500 calories and very little saturated fat.

Dogs

When you’re at a summertime barbecue, it’s rare to only have burgers on the grill. More than likely you’ll also have hot dogs, and the Five Guys franchise is willing to accommodate that request. Basically, take everything you like about a Five Guys burger – the expert grilling, the toasting of the bun and the flexibility in toppings, and apply all of that to a hot dog. Here are the official options:

Kosher Style Hot Dog. What’s interesting about the way Five Guys prepares a hot dog is that they slice the dog and bun lengthwise in half so that the whole thing ends up turning out more like a sandwich with a top and a bottom, like a little submarine sandwich. So rather than toppings and condiments being “around” the dog, they all end up in-between the two halves as well. The regular dog sans toppings has 545 calories and 15.5 grams of saturated fat.

Cheese Dog. Here comes that perfectly melted real American cheese again. It adds the perfect flavor and creaminess to the dog, but also ratchets up the calories and fat to 615 and 19 respectively. Still, few things hit the proverbial spot like a perfectly grilled cheese dog.

Bacon Dog. Remember how bacon makes everything better? As it turns out, this principle applies to hot dogs as well. The crisp bacon forms the perfect compliment to the grilled dog, giving you pork in two different forms. This item weighs in with 625 calories and 18.5 grams of saturated fat.

Bacon Cheese Dog. The perfect trifecta works pretty well in a hot dog, too, which ups your nutritional specs to 695 calories and 22 grams of saturated fat. And don’t forget all those tasty toppings…

Sandwiches

In addition to burgers, dogs and fries, Five Guys gives a nod to those few customers who walk into a burger joint and for some reason don’t actually want a burger. When that rare event occurs, here are the options:

Veggie Sandwich. What’s a vegetarian to do at a burger joint? Order a burger without the burger? Well, that’s essentially what you get with the Five Guys veggie sandwich. In that KISS approach to its menu, this sandwich comes on their regular burger bun, once again grilled to perfection. Starting with tomatoes and lettuce, you’ve still got 13 more toppings you can experiment with to get the veggie sandwich of your dreams.

And if you care to know, they do keep the vegetable and meat grilling areas separate on their equipment. Only 440 calories in this item, and barely 6 grams of saturated fat.

Cheese Veggie Sandwich. Same sandwich as above, but with the addition of their deli-style real American cheese. And once again, it’s all about the grilling and making sure that the cheese is super-melty and infused throughout the sandwich. This item will grant you a little over 500 calories and only 10 grams of saturated fat.

Grilled Cheese. If a grilled cheese on a hamburger bun sounds weird to you, get over it and try this item. They actually turn the bun inside-out so that it’s more like toasting up regular bread. As with all other uses of real American cheese, they make sure the cheese is thoroughly melted.

Still, for many people, this just doesn’t sound very exciting. But then you have to remember all those different free toppings – and that’s how you can make an otherwise simple grilled cheese into something spectacular. Without toppings, the grilled cheese only delivers 470 calories and just 9 grams of saturated fat.

BLT. Here’s where the sandwich-on-a-burger bun works less well. The grilled cheese comes out as quirky and different in a good way, but somehow as you eat the BLT on a burger bun, you can’t help but think how much better it would be on actual toast. Still, their usual expertise with grilling does apply here as well, so it’s still enjoyable. It gives you 533 calories and nearly 12 grams of saturated fat.

Five Guys CEO Jerry Murrell jokes how his mother used to say to him, “If you don’t study, you’ll be flipping burgers.” Little did she know that flipping burgers would wind up being her son’s pathway to success. Even though the fast-casual better burger segment is both maturing and getting crowded with competitors, the Five Guys Burgers and Fries menu is a testament for what works.



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