Why Is Five Guys So Expensive? [+Ways To Cut Cost]

Five Guys is a burger chain that mottles food courts, shopping centers, and high traffic downtown districts across the United States.

It’s image is set apart by a nostalgic image reminiscent of a soda fountain or classic diner.

The business’ popularity comes from its made-to-order model of fast food, hearty portions, and diverse use of peanuts.

Something else that sets Five Guys in stark contrast to their competition is a higher price point.

However, the cost of a (seemingly) simple burger and fries will have many contributing factors that can vary depending on location or even what’s happening in the national economy.

Keep reading to find out why Five Guys is so expensive!

As of May 2022, basic menu items range from $11.40 for a Bacon Cheeseburger at the highest and $4.40 for a Little Fries or Little Cajun Fries at the lowest. Five Guys has become a brand synonymous with quality – and peanuts. It has international brand recognition and a cult following in America due to Former President Obama’s endorsement.

Five Guys may not be the most expensive burger out there, but it is definitely the most expensive fast food burger.

However, some considerations could make the price seem worth it such as an insistence on fresh ingredients and a well compensated staff.

The Cost of Five Guys

As mentioned, the top of the line burger at Five Guys costs almost $12, and their cheapest item is near $5.

The cost is mainly influenced by operating costs and the quality of ingredients.

The company is run by the founder’s five sons, who maintain a tight brand image to ensure quality with every Five Guys visit. 

Five Guys prides itself on maintaining consistency between locations through standardized operations and a thoroughly trained staff. 

Specifically, Why Are Five Guys Milkshakes So Expensive?

Five Guys has expensive milkshakes due to the ingredients cost and the hand-spun nature.

A hand-spun milkshake is made to order with a blender, as opposed to coming from a machine like soft serve, so it’s a more hands-on task.

The toppings for a Five Guy milkshake are just as premium as their burger toppings (which will be discussed further).

It’s not just all natural peanut butter – it’s natural peanut butter with honey. The chocolate and caramel syrups are from the world famous chocolatier, Ghirardelli.

The fruits – strawberries, cherries, and bananas – are all real fruit and not syrups or powders.

So, Why is Five Guys So Expensive on DoorDash?

Five Guys is expensive on DoorDash due to the added cost of using DoorDash as a service and having to tip an additional person.

DoorDash has its own service fees, unless paired with DashPass – but even then, it’s an extra $9.99 a month.

If going to a Five Guys location yourself, there will only be one group of workers to tip. In contrast, when using DoorDash, the restaurant and Dasher would receive a tip.

If you are looking to save on Five Guys, opting to pick it up yourself will not only cut cost, but also cut out an extra step.

Few things are worse than using DoorDash and your food arriving cold from the Dasher taking an accidental wrong turn.

Eight Reasons Why Five Guys Is So Expensive

Five Guys is expensive due to an insistence on quality and a strong workforce. Let’s look into the eight reasons why a fast food burger could possibly cost $12. 

“Free” Toppings

Five Guys touts an extensive list of extras that can be added to a burger, hot dog, or sandwich. 

Their additional (and free) toppings are listed as follows: mayonnaise, lettuce, pickles, tomatoes, grilled onions, grilled mushrooms, ketchup, mustard, relish, raw onion, jalapeños, green peppers, steak sauce, barbecue sauce, and hot sauce. Additional cheese and bacon are also considered free of charge.

While the words say “free”, truthfully, the cost must come from somewhere.

As an example on the extreme end: one person might not order any extras but the next person could order all of them.

In plain terms, the person who did not get extras subsidized the person who did. 

Quality of Ingredients

The menu of Five Guys is trim and no-nonsense, offering burgers, hot dogs, sandwiches, fries, and drinks – which are all sourced from high quality vendors.

All of the spices and toppings for burgers and milkshakes (which we know are numerous) are top quality produce.

The beef that goes into burgers and hot dogs will also be of a higher caliber.

The ingredients that go into a Five Guys meal are chosen based on quality, and sacrificing freshness isn’t on the table.

In-House Burger Buns

Each location receives an overnighted shipment of burger buns sourced from one of ten bakeries in the United States almost every day.

This is one way to achieve freshness as well as having total brand control over the product.

Their burger buns – love ‘em or leave ‘em – are a proprietary recipe that remains consistent from location to location due to being made in-house. 

Peanuts

Peanuts are an important pillar of Five Guys and while bulk pallets are available for an all-you-can-eat peanut buffet, the oil used for frying is only peanut oil.

Most fast food places use either canola oil or a mix of canola and peanut oils to save some money.

Peanut oil is nutrient rich in omega-9 and vitamin E, which makes it in high demand.

Portions

One thing that can always be expected at Five Guys is huge portions.

Every burger comes standard with two beef patties that weigh about 6.7 ounces in total. This is even before the buns and toppings.

Even an order of small fries is often handed over in its own greasy paper bag with enough spuds for two people.

Five Guys Hamburger with Fries

There’s basically a guarantee that no one leaves Five Guys hungry.

Thoroughly Trained Employees

Employees of Five Guys are offered steep food discounts in return for extensive training.

Other employee incentives include tuition assistance programs for continuing education, bi-annual bonuses, and competitive starting pay. 

Not only that, Five Guys employs a fleet of secret shoppers to help keep the image consistent across locations, and these secret shoppers are supposedly compensated well in comparison to other secret shopping tasks.

Choosing to spend hard-earned money means supporting a company that supports its employees and in return provides a quality, consistent meal. 

Hands-On Executives

The legacy of Five Guys was started in 1986 by Jerry Murrell, his wife Janie Murrell, and their four sons (who collectively became the Five Guys after their younger brother was born two years after founding.)

The five sons – Jim, Matt, Chad, Ben, and Tyler – are all still involved with the business and have their own areas of expertise.

For example, each franchisee meets with Ben to keep an open line of communication.

Brothers Matt and Jim travel to make store visits to monitor the quality of each Five Guys location.

Tyler is in charge of the bakery operations. Chad manages the training programs for employees.

Operating Costs

Any business is going to have expenses related to simply keeping the lights on such as rent and utilities.

Other costs, as an example, would be gas prices for transportation of the buns, factoring for food waste, and packaging.

The cost of a meal at Five Guys can be influenced by the location and proximity to major distribution centers, local economies, and individual store management.

How to Save Money on Five Guys

The main options to save money on Five Guys are by limiting portion sizes and taking advantage of free add-ons.

Five Guys store front

As a reminder, even the Little Fries can be happily shared between two people – so even if a customer is getting two burgers, they likely only need one order of fries.

While the top of the line Bacon Cheeseburger is only a few cents shy of $12, it’s possible to enjoy a satisfying burger without bacon or even cheese.

Getting a standard Hamburger around $9.79, but the free toppings can still be taken advantage of.

If the bacon and/or cheese are non-negotiable, a Little Bacon Cheeseburger is around $9.69 and just one patty. 

Locations can also vary in cost depending on rent and personnel, so comparing prices between multiple nearby establishments could also yield results.

Why Has Five Guys Gotten So Expensive?

Five Guys has raised its prices as they believe quality should not be sacrificed.

All of these things add up, especially in a time of economic uncertainty.

As Five Guys expands globally, with the first Australian locations opening in 2021, it’s worth keeping in mind that real estate acquisition and maintaining standards across borders takes extra time and care.

Is Five Guys Worth The Price?

Five Guys is worth the cost if quality ingredients and supporting companies who treat employees fairly is important in influencing decisions.

If these values are not as important, there are plenty of other burger options around.

Five Guys has a distinct flavor, with clean oils and eggy buns, that is hard to emulate elsewhere.

Even if Five Guys isn’t in frequent rotation in your household, that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth the occasional splurge.

How Five Guys Different From Its Competition?

Five Guys is considered good because of the quality of ingredients and the consistency of the end product.

Employees go through an involved training schedule and are compensated with enough incentives to create a pleasant dining experience.

The often forgotten menu items of hot dogs and sandwiches offer their own perks. Hot dogs come with a kosher option, and the sandwiches are top choices for vegetarians.

These modifications for different diets is a small but welcome change of pace in the world of fast food.

There are also a lot of customization options, leading to numerous guides on how to modify orders into “secret menu” items such as patty melts and sloppy joes. 

As a disclaimer, while some in-the-know employees might know of the “secret menu,” it’s best to just ask for the burger, sandwich, or hot dog with customizations.

Secret menus tend not to be standardized, so employees don’t receive training on how to assemble these fan-made recipes.

Cheaper Alternatives to Five Guys

If Five Guys is relegated to a treat or splurge, there are other unique burger options that offer diverse menus and diehard fans.

Below is a table comparing the price of a cheeseburger with two patties across five brands similar to Five Guys.

RestaurantMenu ItemApproximate Cost
Five GuysCheeseburger$10.79
Shake ShackDouble ShackBurger$8.09
SmashburgerClassic Smash + Added Patty$8.69
WalhburgersThe Our Burger + Added Patty$12.45*
In-N-OutDouble Double$4.19
WhataburgerDouble Meat Whataburger + Added Cheese$9.94

*Cheaper if not ordering with an additional patty, which is $3.50 extra.

1.Shake Shack 

Shake Shack is a slowly expanding burger chain that offers burgers, hot dogs, fries, chicken sandwiches, custards, and of course shakes.

The main hub is the East Coast, but locations in California are also popping up. Their claim to fame is only using the highest quality beef and their special sauce.

2.Smashburger

Smashburger is so far available in 37 states, with an extensive burger menu.

What differentiates this brand from the others on the list is a breakfast menu, turkey burgers, black bean burgers, and salads.

3.Wahlburgers

Wahlburger, popularized by a reality show centering Mark Wahlburg and his relationship with his brothers, has 49 locations and counting.

Their offerings center around themed specialty burgers, tots and fries, nuggets, sandwiches, and salads. 

4.In-N-Out

In-N-Out is part of California’s claim to fame, and native Californians will often come to the defense of their beloved burger chain.

In-N-Out is only available in California, Nevada, Arizona, Oregon, Utah, and Texas, bound by a promise of never-frozen patties, but part of its travel appeal is their low cost.

It’s the cheapest one on this list by far! 

5.Whataburger

Whataburger fans frequently butt heads with In-n-Out fans, having wide distribution in the American South.

Whataburger offers a larger menu than its rival, and even offers a triple patty option right on the main menu.

Whataburger’s menu also includes breakfast items, melts, shakes, salads, and desserts. 

Final Thoughts

Five Guys is an internationally acclaimed restaurant chain with high profile endorsements. Despite its widespread popularity, it can be comparatively expensive for fast food.

The active decision to prioritize quality ingredients and maintain employee satisfaction is what makes Five Guys more of a splurge.

Luckily, there are ways to minimize the bill when stopping by for a burger such as maintaining reasonable portions.

If Five Guys seems like it’s not worth the associated cost, there are other regional favorites  spreading across the US that carry the same feeling of camaraderie.

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