Five Guys vs In-N-Out Burgers
One reviewer called it the "Slagasaurus"
Sure, the fresh-never-frozen patties are tasty enough, but the sandwich is more than that. It's the interplay between the ooey-gooey American cheese, the sweet, darkly-toasted bun, the juicier-than-average tomatoes, the crisp iceberg, the full, un-separated-into-rings slice of onion, and the all-important sweet, tangy, pickle-laden Spread. It's a bomb that's rigged to hit every pleasure center on my brain's taste analyzation terminal (by which I mean my tongue). Salty, sweet, savory, soft, crisp, and fresh. - J. Kenji Lopez-Alt
It's become an East versus West thing with die hard fans on either coast touting their own artery clogging creations and type of fries as the number one in the country. While I am a West Coaster and a proud fan of the In-N-Out Burger chain, I am first and foremost a burger fan. I have made it a quest to find the ultimate burger and I have to confess, writing this article has driven me to odd hour foraging trips to my favorite destinations because you can't look at these photos and read these descriptions without succumbing to the burger urge.
I heard about Five Guys from others who tried them and did some research. Lucky for me I was about to be in the vicinity of the newly opened City of Orange location and I took my notebook and camera along. It was modestly tucked back into a clean and interesting strip mall on a busy thoroughfare.
When I arrived, a cute young "fiver" was scrubbing the door glass and smiled at me as I entered with my paraphernalia in tow. I need to point out one thing here--Five Guys has no drive through. It is strictly walk up and dine in or walk it out. The first thing you see when you walk in is the obvious similarity to In-N-Out's red and white décor. Posters of endorsements adorn every wall and there are stacks of fresh potatoes and boxes of peanuts between the brightly lit menu board and the dining area. It has the feel of a diner and even though there was a working microphone, the busy young fiver calling out completed orders chose to yell it out rather than use it.There was rock music playing and the lines were moderately long but manageable.
The giant menu boards let you know right away that you can order a few more items with slightly more toppings than In-N-Out...specifically hot dogs and bacon on your burgers.
Five Guys has been around for a while but hasn't made Zagat’s Top 5 burger list until President Obama was spotted frequenting the place. Suddenly it catapulted to the No. 1 position in the burger category, and the No. 2 spot for Best French Fries. That it could be "the best" overnight shows how notoriously off these polls can be but it's enough to get the attention of some West Coast burgerhounds like me.
When polls are influenced by celebrity fans, trendy In-N-Out faithfuls like Selena Gomez and the Governator could change the results overnight because face it, wouldn't you rather hang with Selena and her homies than those sour looking suits shadowing the O man.
I had no problem ordering since I wanted to match what I often ordered at In-N-Out. The "Little" Cheeseburger sports an ample hand pressed patty, slice of American cheese and my choice of 14 toppings, most of which are also free at In-N-Out except for grilled mushrooms and A-1, BBQ or Hot sauces. You can also order it with bacon. The burger comes with a sesame seed bun which is fresh and once wrapped up in aluminum foil becomes softer and more malleable than the crisp "proper" In-N-Out freshly made bun. While I kind of liked it chewy that way, I overheard three guys at the next table say they definitely preferred the INO buns.
The foil-wrapped burger and cup of fries plus a healthy extra dump of fries all goes into a big brown bag. While I will forgive a lot for taste, INO definitely has the presentation down.
The "Secret" Menu
The simple menu at In-N-Out Burgers reads like the classic ingredients in Breyers Vanilla Ice Cream--only four: the Hamburger, Cheeseburger, Double-Double and French Fries. Drinks are standard Coca-Cola choices with the addition of 7-up and Dr. Pepper and three flavors of milk shakes completes the menu.
That simplicity has made dining at INO a reliable and simple choice for West Coasters for decades. Through the years, however, the more adventurous have taken INO up on their willingness to make it any way the customer desires. This has resulted in a "secret" menu that INO has actually added (partially) to it's website. For those who are privy to them, the choices for variation are much more than you think.
3x3 or 4x4--Actually any variation of number of patties or cheese slices. There have been 100x100 burgers in the past, but recently the 4x4 is the limit.
Animal Style--The most famous of the "Secret" burgers is a beef patty with lettuce, tomatoes and cheese, spread and grilled onions diced up and mixed together on the grill before it is placed on your burger.
Animal Fries--Regular fries with extra spread, chopped up pickles and grilled onions mixed into the spread and melted cheese. One reviewer called it "Softcore Food Porn."
Grilled Cheese--Everything but the meat. You still have lettuce, onions and tomatoes and spread which can also be ordered Animal Style. You can order the fries with cheese as well.
They paint your burger with mustard before grilling. They would probably paint it with ketchup before grilling if you asked.
Protein Style--This is actually a very tasty version of any of their burgers wrapped in leaf lettuce instead of a bun.
Flying Dutchman--This is the other low carb secret menu item (which prints out on your receipt) and is two patties and two cheese slices only.
Fries Light--Fries cooked slightly less time for less cruchy.
Fries "Well" or "Extra Well"--Increased cooking time for crunchier fries.
Neapolitan shake All three shake flavors in one cup. Because they use real ice cream, the shakes are so thick the flavors stay separated and are delicious. You can also get a Chocolate-Vanilla Swirl.
Yes you can order one or a Coke float for that matter.
Arnold Palmer--Half tea and half lemonade
You can ask for a packet, or get them diced on the bottom of your burger by asking for “chopped chilis.”
In-N-Out has grown from a single drive-through in Baldwin Park to 240
restaurants as of November 2009 in California, Arizona and Nevada. Harry Snyder and his wife Esther opened the first location in 1948, the same year
the McDonald brothers launched McDonald's, just 45
miles apart in Southern California. In-N-Out's owners never veered from its core
philosophies of never franchising and as it says on the company's website, "Give customers the freshest, highest quality
foods you can buy and provide them with friendly service in a sparkling
clean environment." In-N-Out has one of the lowest turnover rates in an
industry that's famous for high turnover. Its owners have kept things
good and simple, just as Harry Snyder intended.
They have Bible references discretely on the bottoms of many of their
cups or containers which, if you look them up, feature familiar and
laudable themes such as faith, trust and love. When Harry died in
1976 at the age of 67, his son Rich took over at age 24. Under his leadership the business expanded to 93 locations. Rich Snyder, died in a Santa Ana plane crash in 1993. His brother, Guy Snyder took over and In-N-Out expanded to 140 locations. When Guy died of an
accidental painkiller overdose in 1999, Esther Snyder took control of the company.
In-N-Out's Princess Heir
The untimely deaths of Esther Snyder's only children left 23 year old Lynsi Martinez, Guy's daughter, as the primary beneficiary of the multi-million-dollar burger empire. Martinez will become the controlling shareholder of the company when she turns 35.
In-N-Out's strategy is steady, controlled growth of about 5 percent annually and its approach appears to work just as well as that of larger competitors. According to QSR Magazine, a trade publication, In-N-Out's sales per unit in 2004 were roughly $1.7 million, just shy of the $1.9 million logged by McDonald's restaurants.
Family Franchised vs. Family Owned
While each I-N-O is family owned and operated, Five Guys is a family-owned franchise operated by franchisees . Five Guys was founded in the mid-'80s by Janie and Jerry Murrell, who named it for their five sons.Their first location was opened in Arlington, Va in 1986. Growing steadily in the D.C. area they began offering franchises which was greatly aided by former Washington Redskins kicker Mark Moseley, who became Five Guys' director of franchise development and as of August 2010, there are over 670 locations in over 40 states and 5 Canadian provinces.
The chain has opened about a dozen units in the state of California, In-N-Out's greatest fan base, the latest being in the city of Orange and Temecula. The rights to open 30 Five Guys in parts of Orange and Los Angeles counties belongs to an entity called Bicoastal Restaurant Partners who essentially are Phil Ratner and Bob Zanolli.
Phil Ratner has a record of successful turnarounds with major chains. As President and CEO of Marie Callender's Restaurants, he improved both sales and profits and successfully merged the company with Perkins Family Restaurants. He served as President and CEO of Acapulco Restaurants for nearly ten years, doubling the nearly bankrupt company's size to $90 million in sale.
Ratner opened their first Five Guys in Carson, the first in California. At the time, "no one knew who we were," Ratner said. “We have great respect for In-N-Out,” said Bob Zanolli, a former chief president of Santa Ana-based Winchell’s Donut Houses LP. “But we think Five Guys can hold its own. The challenge is getting people familiar with Five Guys. East Coast transplants are aware of it, but others not so much and so we are hoping to rely on word of mouth. Those who come in usually come back.”
Appearance and Menu Both sport a red and white color scheme and retro feel. both menus are limited: Five Guys has hot dogs and more toppings while In-N-Out has the "Secret Menu" and Animal style. In-N-Out also has Milk Shakes made from real ice cream.
Freshness and Quality Both chains brag about freshness (no freezers) and quality (In-N-Out especially buys only select chucks of beef and sends a "secret" blend of the meat through a two-grind system. Each store gets a supply of unfrozen meat and fresh produce every other day--they have said that they will not open a location farther than one day's driving distance from their processing hub in Baldwin Park).
Price In-N-Out cheeseburger combo with medium drink and fries is under $5. Prices are double at Five Guys with an average order of $11.
Burger Awesomeness The burgers are bigger at Five Guys with a different type of bun and the hand pressed patty with different toppings make for a very tasty and satisfying experience. In-N-Out's burgers are also very tasty and satisfying while the meat, lettuce and bun have a crispier, fresher feel. Both make an awesome burger and I would find myself frequenting both for the uniquely different experiences.
French Fries In-N-Out has the imminently fresh, longer, skinnier fries that can be cooked soft or crispy. Ordering Animal style gives them the edge in messy, rich enjoyment. I have always been a fan of fries cooked in peanut oil and so I thoroughly enjoyed the oil saturated crispy fries with the skin on at Five Guys. Like the burgers, it is hard to choose a favorite. I am glad that I can have both when I feel like it.
Drive Through Five Guys has no drive through and for those of us animal style individuals who pile into the car late at night for the experience, this is a big tip to In-N-Out.
Free Peanuts You can help yourself to
roasted peanuts in open boxes at Five Guys and it helps to soothe the pain of not having a drive through.
Employees and Service Both places have friendly, hard working employees but the edge has to go to In-N-Out. They ALWAYS have enough staff to work a shift and their employees are genuinely friendly, competent and helpful. This is undoubtedly due to how the company treats its employees. It's not uncommon for workers to boast of 15, 20 or 40 years of service. The reason: The pay is almost as alluring as its burgers. Vice president of planning Carl Van Fleet., a former Pizza Hut executive, said it was Harry Snyder's philosophy to lavish employees with wages and perks higher than his competitors. But, in return, he expected workers to learn the company from the ground up and meet his goals of quality, cleanliness and friendliness.
Entry-level slicers and dicers, even part time, start at $10 an hour. High school students have to show their semester grades to maintain their work schedule hours and if grades slip, hours are cut. They work around your college schedule and family obligations. They promote from within. Only the best are awarded coveted manager positions. I-N-O managers make almost double most fast food managers' salaries--about $100,000 to $150,000 a year, and average 14 years' experience. In-N-Out also offers first-class trips to Hawaii and Europe for managers who meet yearly goals, a bonus program inspired by Esther Snyder, who loves to travel.
Family vs. Franchise For years, chain restaurants, like Carl's Jr., Taco Bell, McDonald's, and Burger
King, wanted to open at San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf but the city
and the merchants didn't want to share
space with regular fast-food chains. Family owned In-N-Out was the only one they allowed.There is something unique about one family philosophy which comes out in their employee relationships, their foundation work, and their understated faith.
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