1. They don’t care about peanut allergies
Most places absolutely trip over themselves with anti-peanut alarmism. “Does one person have a minor peanut allergy? Ban all nuts from the premises forever!”
Elementary school cafeterias are the worst by the way. They resort to virtue signaling anti-peanut propaganda that isn’t even effective.
Five Guys has a different philosophy:
“You have peanut allergies? Fuck you!”
This is what the interior of every Five Guys looks like:
I respect this a lot. Not everything has to be for everyone. It’s a problem that an intolerant minority can force everyone else to change.
The terms “intolerant” and “minority” come with a lot of baggage. Intolerant is not a value judgement here. It’s not people’s fault if they’re allergic. And minority doesn’t mean oppressed group here. It just means not majority.
Too many places display a please-all mentality. In thinking that they have to be for anyone, they make themselves for no one.
Too many places, everything gets smoothed out to the least offensive, which means the least common denominator. They have no character. Character is comprised of those unique idiosyncrasies that you can’t find elsewhere.
The please-all mentality unfairly eliminates those things that are not for everyone, whittling down character to blandness. This same-y-ness I call genericification.
Some places would say, “Our metrics tell us that we can capture 3% more families if we ban peanuts!” Five Guys says, “who cares, we’ll loose a lot more customers if we loose our character. You can’t put a number on character, but it’s there.” If Five Guys ever gets rid of free peanuts, you’ll know they’ve sold out. And the thing is, moves like peanut bans wouldn’t even be a good idea financially. It’s the type of move that only makes people feel better about themselves.
Of course, children who have nut allergies need to be protected. We need to segregate their food from nuts. Have their medication available at all times. And anyone who manufactures or serves food needs to be aware of deadly nut allergies.Of course.
Maybe, if touching a nut kills you, you’re supposed to die.
2. They use gender non-neutral pronouns
Other fast food joints, like Wendy’s and Burger King, already have gendered names, but the Five Guys’ name takes the extra step of gendering its staff.
This is in keeping with the previous point, of not worrying about offending intolerant people.
I’m struck, reading old texts, how beautiful a non-PC-abiding language is. I’ll take that over a gender neutral adage: “They who hesitates is lost,” or a gender neutral moon landing: “Small step for man or woman, giant leap for humanity.”
3. They have good packaging, which doesn’t use plastic
I loath plastic. I hate the stupid way it looks, I hate the stupid way it feels, and I hate the stupid taste of anything that touches it. So it is to my pleasure that Five Guys does not use plastic (unless you order a drink, in which case you might pull a straw. But using a straw is not a requirement or anything.)
Also, I love the lack of decoration. This is what other fast food bags look like:
This is a Five Guys bag:
They haven’t run everything through focus grouped branding studies. Consider the balls of this move. It would have been so easy to add corporate branding to the bag. The branding would turn the bag into a walking advertisement, reminding you of our commercialized culture. But Five Guys just uses a plain brown bag. Why? Because it works.
Also note that the fries don’t come in a fancy package, they’re just thrown directly into the bag like this:
Five guys doesn’t care about what’s fancy. They just do the bare minimum of what works.
The peanuts are coated in peanut oil (as the peanut box warned us about when we walked in). What happens if the peanut oil gets on other stuff in the box? Who cares!
That simple action, the fact that fries are thrown directly into the bag, is by itself the quintessential reason I like Five guys.
It’s so easy to get wrapped up in some arbitrary protocol with ridiculous requirements for how everything has to be done a certain way. Five Guys has the balls to say “whatever.”
4. They know what they do
So far, I’ve been judging Five Guys on quirks that appeal to me. Any business can get bogged down in a million gimmicks that are peripheral their actual function. But a good business is one that succeeds at what it tries to do. And what is that?
It’s in the name: Five Guys Burgers and Fries.
And Five Guys isn’t like Dunkin Doughnuts, currently changing their name to drop any pretense that they aren’t just a coffee place. The name of Five Guys Burgers and Fries is true to the company’s mission: (A) Make good burgers, and (B) make good fries.
And they do both well.