When his two oldest sons declared they were not going to college, Jerry Murrell supported their decision. To keep the boys close to home and employed, he and his wife, Janie, used the money intended for their tuition to open a hamburger take-out shop in Arlington, Virginia. From this small beginning, Five Guys and a Burger (named for Murrell’s five sons) grew to 570 franchises in the United States and Canada. All the Murrells’ sons eventually joined the company, which the family still owns and runs. Very early, Murrell realized that in order to compete with the fast-food chains, Five Guys would have to concentrate on food. All the restaurants feature the same simple, red-and-white-tile décor. The meat for the burgers—80 percent lean—is always fresh, never frozen. Burgers are made to order, with a selection of 17 toppings. The buns are toasted on a grill for better taste, rather than in a bun toaster. The potatoes for the fries, which are cooked in peanut oil, all come from northern Idaho, where they grow more slowly. Because Five Guys insists on the highest-quality ingredients, its food prices change according to what the company pays its suppliers. The family tried some experiments that failed, such as serving coffee and a chicken sandwich. Aside from a very few kinds of hot dogs, they have stayed with the original burger-and-fries formula that first brought them success. The food-industry research firm Technomic named Five Guys the fastest growing chain for a recent year. That same year, the company took in an estimated $570 million—up 50 percent from the previous year. “We figure our best salesman is our customer,” Murrell says. “Treat that person right, he’ll walk out the door and sell for you.”

Questions for Critical Thinking

1. Why do you think Five Guys and a Burger prospered during the recent recession?

2. How might supply and demand determine what the company pays its suppliers?

Sources:

Company Web site, http://www.fiveguys.com, accessed April 10, 2010; Jerry Murrell, “How I Did It,” Inc.com, April 1, 2010, http://www.inc.com; “Business Opening: Five Guys Burgers and Fries,” greenbaypressgazette, March 25, 2010, http://www.greenbaypressgazette.com; Ashley Miller, “Five Guys Named Fastest Growing Chain Restaurant,” examiner.com, March 30, 2010, http://www.examiner.com; Roger Yu, “Fast-Growing Five Guys Burger Chain Sticks to Basic, Fresh Food,” USA Today, June 8, 2009, http://www.usatoday.com