It’s not just about the burgers. (Although let’s all agree — they are amazing).
When I eat at ‘Five Guys,’ I feel like I am at Crusty Crabs, from the Spongebob cartoon. They sure have some secret ingredient that makes them so unique.
And as I was devouring my double burger with relish, pickles, fresh tomatoes, and grilled onions as my free toppings, I couldn’t help but wonder what makes it so unique.
Why am I sitting at ‘Five Guys’ and not McDonald’s? And why are they so popular that when people walk past one of their joints, they can’t help but stop and exclaim, ‘Hey, check it out, it’s ‘Five Guys’!
But most importantly, what can you learn from this hugely successful burger joint, that will help you become successful both in life and business?
Two Things: Mastery and Abundance
“The future belongs to those who learn more skills and combine them in creative ways.” — Robert Greene, ‘Mastery’
My father likes peanuts.
He doesn’t eat burgers, because he doesn’t eat meat, but he loves to stop at ‘Five Guys’ and get his peanuts. Sometimes he would eat them on his own. Sometimes he would feed the birds at St. James Park in London.
Why? Because they are free. In an unlimited quantity.
If you’ve ever been to any ‘Five Guys’ — whether it’s in the US, UK, or anywhere else in the world, you’ve probably noticed that they’re different.
They do things differently. You notice that as long as you walk in.
The first thing you notice is that it’s loud. Every minute or so, you hear the cashier yell, “Order #98 ready! Please geeeeeet your order!” as if he was announcing a boxing match.
You can also see everything that’s usually happening behind the scenes in other burger joints. There’s no kitchen. The burgers are made right in front of you. In fact, your patty starts to be made right after you make your order.
The cashier writes down your order, turns around, and yells to the chef something like, “Two patties please!” — making you a part of the experience even before your food is ready.
But of course, it’s not about the free peanuts per se. And it’s not about the way the cashier takes your order. That’s what you see from the outside.
What makes ‘Five Guys’ stand out is two things:
mastery — a relentless commitment to their vital craft;
abundance — a side-effect of mastery and confidence, and an alternative to the ‘scarcity complex.’
And you can learn to incorporate those things into your life, too.
‘This Is How Burgers Should Be’
One thing you notice when you try to make an order at ‘Five Guys’ is their limited menu options. There are two types of burgers (cheeseburger and a hamburger), fries, and a choice of beverage: milkshake or soda.
Think back to McDonald’s. There are so many menu options; it’s possible to eat something new every day for a month. Now, what’s the best thing that McDonald’s does? I don’t know. Do you?
There’s a reason why ‘Five Guys’ hold a limited menu — and that is, focus. They want to be the #1 at their core thing (that would be making burgers), and they don’t care if other people are good at something else.
They promised people who come to ‘Five Guys’ that they’ll receive delicious burgers, and they deliver on that promise.
They do their core thing very well and don’t distract themselves with anything else. That’s mastery.
And if you look around the room, you’ll see printouts, testimonials, and quotes from the media, that support it (one of those quotes is in the title of this section).
“These bacon burgers are addictive.”
“In my 33 years, I’ve never eaten fries so slow…”
“All I can think about is fries from ‘Five Guys’”
Aren’t you hungry now?
The Abundance Mindset
“I’ll have a large burger for myself and a small burger for my lady. And two fries please”, I said.
“Absolutely! But are you sure you want two large fries? I mean, it’s your call, but we give you a lot of extra fries anyway… I suggest doing two small ones, or one large one”, the cashier replied.
“Oh… Ok, does it make any difference?” I asked.
“Yeah, man. I mean, I am here to give you best burgers, I don’t want to rip you off or something. Trust me. You’ll save 5 pounds.”
“Oh, Ok! Great! Thanks! Let’s go for the two small ones then”, I said and went off to wait to watch how my burger is made.
Free ketchup, unlimited soda refills, free peanuts, extra fries that they put in your brown bag so that you have more than enough?
What is this all about? Abundance mindset.
They know they’re great. So why trick people?
Instead of making an extra five pounds, they are willing to go the extra mile and actually save me money but make me very happy with their service in the process. (Heck, I might not have written this article if it wasn’t for that 5 pounds! They impressed me!)
The abundance mindset is the opposite of ‘scarcity complex’ when you’re afraid that the world will run out of oxygen, so you breathe slowly.
It’s confidence. High self-esteem. It attracts people. And it’s very appealing.
‘Five Guys’ doesn’t hide anything. If they made a mistake, they’d correct it. You can see how the burger is made. You can see everything — including the raw potatoes they use for fries, where they came from, and the fact that there’s no freezer in the joint.
They are transparent. Confident. And it works for them.
Think Like ‘Five Guys’
There are a few life lessons to learn from the way this burger chain operates.
#1. Think abundantly.
There’s an unlimited amount of money you can make in the world. There is an unlimited number of girls (or guys) you can date. When you’re not afraid to lose something (i.e., 5 pounds on one client), you’ll have an abundance of it.
Think in abundance instead of pinching pennies. Give out a lot of free stuff. Act like you’ll have a lot of something, and you will.
#2. Build mastery.
Pick one thing and go nuts. Instead of distracting yourself with 12319019 different things, do something you can become #1 at. Commit to it.
Build those 10,000 hours (or 8,000 or 5,000, depends on your ambitions) and deliver. Ship. Keep the promises you made.
#3. Use testimonials.
There’s nothing as powerful in marketing as a testimonial from another user or from a famous person. Each ‘Five Guys’ joint is filled with quotes, printed articles, and mentions of it in the media. They know they’re great and they’re not afraid to show it.
Use testimonials everywhere you can, to support the critical aspects of your product or service. Have other people market you for you. That way, you’re not a show-off, but you drive the point home.
#4. Give gifts.
I didn’t ask for the cashier to save me 5 pounds. But he did. Why? It was a gift. It was art. It was an act of emotional labor. And because of it, I’ll go there again. I am now loyal to them.
When you give gifts, people perceive you to have an abundance. You are thought of as confident, and everyone wants to be around you. These gifts don’t have to be monetary. Anything can be a gift, whether it’s an insightful blog post, words of affirmation, or a bottle of wine, as long as the intent is there.
If you want to be noticed and remembered, give gifts — to those around you, to your audience, customers, and colleagues.
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