Five Guys is a fast growing chain of restaurants which originated from the US, and first hit the UK in 2013 with their Covent Garden branch. The burger chain is Named Five Guys because it was started somewhere in Virginia USA in 1986, by five guys! They now have over 1000 branches in the US alone and are spreading out to us Brits. Unlike your regular, more ubiquitous fast food burger restaurants like McDonalds and Burger King, they are classed as fast casual, and lead you to believe that they ‘hand craft’ their burgers with the same kind of love, care and attention as a ‘hand crafted’ beverage at your local Starbucks (a new stupid but popular term used to describe something that is made to order). Since opening in central London, they are popping up everywhere in the UK at a rapid pace, and you’ll frequently find branches full of teens and hipsters, as it is considered a pretty trendy place for some reason.
The look of a typical Five Guys restaurant is the same in all restaurants. Having visited a branch in LA in 2014, I half expected UK restaurants to have their own unique quirk, but the branch was identical in design. The walls are brilliant white, with a red checkered pattern that runs along the centre and their simple logo emblazoned on the front. Mounted on the walls are accolades from various magazines to show how great Five Guy is. The counter itself is open and includes the kitchen area in full view, so you can see your ‘freshly made hand-crafted burger’ being designed in real time. While you wait for your burger, they have a stack of bottomless peanuts that you can help yourself to and one of those new-fangled digital Coke machines with a ridiculous choice of drinks on offer that you make and refill yourself.
Focus on Burgers, Fries and Hotdogs
They have a simple focus on burgers, hot dogs and fries. Specifically with their burgers and hot dogs, you order a base which is either a burger or dog in a bun (or without buns if you don’t like/can’t eat bread!!) and then you have a range of toppings you can add in gratis to literally make it your own custom burger. The toppings are quite varied, ranging from a number of different condiments, peppers and veggies with which to garnish your meaty preference. For the purposes of this review, I went for a double cheese burger with bacon and topped it with ketchup, mustard, jalapeños, pickle, grilled onions, tomato and lettuce. For the sides, I purchased a large fries and an Oreo shake.
When my order arrived, I was really satisfied by the package it arrived in, and when I unwrapped my burger, I have to admit that it looked and smelled pretty gorgeous. Additionally, when you ask for a large fries, you get this served to you in a large drinking cup, plus an extra scoop that is just given loose within the bag. The amount of fries for a large is bewildering, and probably enough to feed 4 people and is also probably the reason it cost £5 on its own. I wish they would label portions a little more realistically.
Taking a bite into the burger, the first thing that struck me was the texture of the soft bun and tender mince, along with the gooey cheese and crunchiness of the toppings I had ordered. It all felt great, and substantial and made me salivate at the thought of inhaling my next bite into it, but the excitement I had for it faded all too fast. Whilst the texture of the burger was great, unfortunately the burger itself was pretty tasteless. I cast my mind back to my experience in LA the previous year and remembered that the experience I had with the burger there was again, identical. In this instance, the only things in the burger with any significant flavour were the crispy bacon and grilled onion, yet those alone weren’t enough to save this unsatisfying combo. I was dismayed at the flavourless meat, and the weak cheese which should have been highlights to the meal, but were flat. The jalapeños had a little kick to them, but having only two slices beneath the bun meant this sensation was short lived.
My experience with the fries were also identical to my visit to the LA branch last year and whilst these skin-on fries had a satisfying crispy outer shell and a fluffy potato centre, they were unfortunately over-salted to a point where they were so sickly and inedible that eating any more than a couple handfuls probably would have done me personal harm.
The one thing that was good was their Oreo shake, which had a wonderful viscosity, with a lovely blast of sweetness from the generous helping of Oreo bits inside. Yummy!
In summary, I was disappointed in the meal itself, which, based on its growing popularity and trendiness I expected Five Guys to offer an experience that was much greater than your average and much cheaper burger joint, however I can tell you that even the cheap burgers from McDonalds or Burger King would provide you with a MUCH MORE SATIFYING and lasting experience than that which Five Guys are offering. No exaggeration, their burgers taste flavourless! The only thing worse than my experience with the meal was how expensive it was. For the price of a typical meal, you can get a quality burger from places like Atomic Burger, or Honest Burgers for much less.
The only thing worth considering if you do visit a branch of Five Guys is their shakes, which were pretty tasty and would be enough to get me to visit again for something ‘desserty’ only. Otherwise, if you’re sensible, you will avoid the mediocre burger and chips on offer in favour of something more quality and for better value. Having had the same poor meal experience in two different branches half way across the world from each other, I can safely say, don’t believe the hype. If I can say one thing to sum up Five Guys, its that at least they are consistent.
Final Verdict: 3/10 – Mediocre tasteless burger, over salted fries and the cost of the meal make this a largely unsatisfying experience. Its only redeeming feature was its Oreo shake which is rather nice.