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The evening before my visit with Fruit Center Marketplace for this month’s cover story, I had dinner at the Five Guys Burgers and Fries around the corner from the Hyatt Place hotel where I stayed in Braintree, Mass.
For those of you not familiar with Five Guys, it’s a quick-service restaurant chain that specializes in hamburgers and fresh-cut french fries, and has a cult following, much the same as In-N-Out Burger does on the West Coast. The operation started with one store in Washington, D.C., a little more than 20 years ago, and now has more than 1,000 franchised locations across the country.
Personally, I love Five Guys’ cheeseburgers and fries, but as good as the food is, it’s the overall experience that keeps me coming back, and the Braintree Five Guys is a perfect example of how little items can go a long way in creating a delightful customer experience. Readers, take note:
First, there’s not an employee in the store who’s not smiling (even when I’m not snapping photos of them). This goes for the person at the counter taking your order, the line cooks preparing the orders, the associate who packages and hands you your order — and there’s constant friendly banter among them as they perform their tasks. (By the way, they have excellent line management as well.) It’s obvious that all here enjoy their jobs.
Simplicity is another factor. The menu is simple: burgers, dogs, sandwiches and fries. Under each are several toppings and variations, making for tons of varieties within those four offerings, but basically, the menu is four items. Easy.
Once you place your order, there’s an area designated for those waiting to pick up their food. In the Braintree location, it’s a high counter with four seats. While you wait, though, you won’t starve. Among the bags of Idaho potatoes stacked in front of the grills — from which the store makes its famous fresh-cut fries — are bins filled with peanuts, and customers can have as many as they want to scoop into the small paper baskets provided. Those with nut allergies notwithstanding, I think this is a tremendous idea. First, most people are hungry (surprise) when they enter a fast-food restaurant, and nothing is worse than watching — and smelling — delicious food being prepared while you’re waiting for your order to be filled. The in-shell peanuts take care of the hunger, and the act of shelling the peanuts is a distraction from the wait time, particularly for me, as I’m used to having my peanuts already shelled, so I’m pretty clumsy when it comes to shelling them.
Five Guys also provides a sense of theater, as the grill is front and center, and each line cook has his or her own unique style of prep, so you just can’t help trying to figure out which of them is working on your burger.
I’m not the only one who feels this way about Five Guys — displayed on every wall of the restaurant are articles from media around the country touting the restaurants’ greatness (it prints some of these accolades on its cups, too). Most telling, however, are the notes written by the Braintree store’s customers and posted to a bulletin board near the exit. “I Love Five Guys,” “Five Guys for Life” and “Everyone Loves Five Guys” are among them.