Five Guys Arrives
Burgers and fries on N. State
by Sally Mitani
From the March, 2011 issue
Three guys own the local Five Guys, but "I'm the hands-on guy," Mike Abrams says. Abrams, Brian Adelman, and David Pittaway opened Five Guys Burgers and Fries in the former Shaman Drum bookstore on State Street in January. As the hands-on guy, Abrams oversees the day-to-day operations. The other two are the money guys--Adelman is a doctor, and Pittaway works for an investment firm.
Five Guys is a "fast casual" hamburger chain founded in 1986 in Arlington, Virginia, by Jerry and Janie Murrell and their four sons--Jerry and the four sons being the original five guys. They expanded to five locations by 2001 and in 2002 started to franchise. Things kind of exploded from there: nine years later there are over 750 Five Guys locations in the United States and Canada. Abrams says it's the fastest- growing restaurant chain in the country.
Guys like Abrams, Adelman, and Pittaway are a big part of the phenomenal growth; they've opened eight Five Guys franchises in the Detroit area in the last three years. The Ann Arbor store is their ninth, and they plan to open three more between now and September. And that's just the start. As part of their seven-year exclusive franchise deal for the state of Michigan, they agreed to open forty stores during that period. After that, the arrangement ends. So far, Abrams says, they're on track and hope to open five stores a year for the next five years.
Abrams says that part of Five Guys' appeal is the simplicity of the menu. It's basically burgers and fries, although they also offer kosher-style hot dogs and a grilled cheese and vegetable sandwich (which is basically their burger toppings on a bun without the meat). The toppings--free with a burger--include mayo, mustard, ketchup, lettuce, relish, onion, pickle, tomato, jalapeno, grilled onions, and grilled mushrooms. A two-patty "regular" burger goes for $4.99 and the one-patty "little" burger is $3.69. The fries come in both regular and Cajun versions, both
made fresh: the company prides itself on the fact that there are no freezers at any Five Guys location.
The interior is standard Five Guys, the walls a cheerful mix of white and red tile with the white predominating. Sacks of Five Guys potatoes fill the front windows where once there were books, and there are buckets of free peanuts for people to munch while waiting on their orders. What isn't standard Five Guys is out front. Instead of the red and white corporate colors mandated for most Five Guys, this store has retained the gorgeous wood exterior that predates even Shaman Drum--it was originally built for the Wild Men's Shop.
Abrams, fifty-two, is the hands-on guy because he's the only one of the three partners with a restaurant background: in addition to the Five Guys franchises, he owns nine other bars and restaurants. The renovations took longer than expected--they'd hoped to be finished last fall--but now that they're finally open, he says, "it's going great." Students he was expecting, but Abrams happily reports, "We're [also] drawing a lot of families." To shorten the wait, they take advance orders by phone and online (see address below).
Five Guys, 311 S. State, 213-3483,
Sun.-Thurs. 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 11 a.m.-2 a.m., although if they're busy, they'll stay open later. gofiveguys.com
[Originally published in March, 2011.]