Workers Reveal What It's Really Like To Work At Five Guys

If you've ever been to a Five Guys, you've likely noticed that there are not, in fact, five guys working at every location. There are instead many, many employees working at the nearly 1,500 restaurant locations — and, it should go without saying, not all of them are guys.

So what's it like to actually be one of these workers? For one, each employee has to be ready to deal with the hassles of peanut shells as well as master the art of the French fry. There's also the requirement that employees learn to cook the burgers without timers, and it's everyone's job to impress secret shoppers. There are benefits, of course, like free meals and the knowledge of what makes the absolute best burger using the 15 free condiments available at every Five Guys location.

This is what it's really like to be a Five Guys worker, according to past and current employees.

It's far too easy for Five Guys workers to mess up the fries

Five Guys is famous for its fries. The sacks of potatoes are piled in the store for all to see, and the chain even specifies where most of the potatoes come from: Idaho, and more specifically, from fields in the state that are above the 42nd parallel, according to the company. One Five Guys worker described on Reddit that the ideal Five Guys fry is "supposed to be firm and taste like mashed potatoes." Yet according to a different former Five Guys employee on Reddit, all the special qualifications of the fries mean nothing if the wrong person is manning the fry station.

"If the person on the fries station doesn't know what he is doing, they will come out terrible and inconsistent," the former employee wrote, adding that "even veteran workers" over or undercook the fries sometimes. Then there's the problem of leaving the fries under the heat lamp for too long, which makes them soggy, or the issue of a worker who has a heavy hand with the salt.

It all comes down to one telling statement from that former employee: "The fries have the potential to be good if the person making them knows what he is doing (which most often isn't the case)."

Those peanut shells are a real pain for Five Guys workers to clean up

There are bars and restaurants in the world where throwing the shells of complimentary peanuts on the floor is not only accepted, but expected (looking at you, Texas Roadhouse). While Five Guys offers up big barrels of free peanuts and you might spot someone throwing a shell or two, the chain isn't supposed to have a shell-covered floor.

In a Reddit Ask Me Anything, a former Five Guys worker said that working the "House" shift means cleaning all of the customer messes on and around the tables. In their words, it's a "terrible" duty that's "not rewarding because there is always a mess (d*mn peanuts)." Another former employee posted on Quora to "please do me a favor, tell everyone you know not to throw the peanuts on the ground. Five Guys isn't Texas Roadhouse."

This wouldn't be a problem if there were no free peanuts, but the snack is part of the brand now. While Five Guys doesn't explicitly list why it offers free peanuts, a former employee named Mike Nicholas offered one potential reason on Quora. Nicholas wrote that the food at Five Guys takes a little longer to make than other fast food burgers, and the peanuts keep customers occupied with something to eat while they wait. Or, as another former employee wrote on Reddit, the peanuts "distract the customers so that they won't stare at us" while the food is being made.

When the peanuts leave the restaurant, it's a liability for Five Guys and the workers

The signs posted inside Five Guys restaurants make it clear that peanuts are meant to be eaten on location and not taken outside. According to The Daily Meal, Five Guys doesn't let people take peanuts because, despite the low probability of someone getting an allergic reaction from a casual encounter, Five Guys wants "to limit the risk of someone unknowingly coming into contact with peanuts."

However, exactly how strict the peanut policy is might depend on the location. A former Five Guys worker posted on Reddit, "I regularly scold customers that try to take peanuts outside since it says not to take them on the front door and on the box of peanuts itself."

In response to a question on Quora, multiple employees and former workers reported various levels of enforcement. One, named Jay Mayers, said it's up to the owner and general manager to decide and that his location sold peanuts and peanut oil to customers as well as let people take a small bag home because "pleasing customers is more important." Another, a former manager named Korin Adams, said that people aren't technically allowed to take them out of the store because of liability issues, but "depending on the manager you can usually ask for a small bag and take some home for free."

High school sports teams can be a nightmare for Five Guys workers

The perfect pit stop for a group of hungry high school athletes is a restaurant chain that's affordable, generally spacious, and able to put out lots of food fast. Five Guys checks all of those boxes, but that doesn't mean the workers are exactly happy about it.

On r/FiveGuys, someone asked what the benefits to working at the chain are. The responses quickly turned to issues that are the opposite of benefits, to put it lightly. On typically slow days (Tuesdays and Wednesdays especially), there is occasionally a rush that overloads the sparse weekday shift workers. Those rushes are made all the worse if it's a high school sports team, one person responded.

"A high school basketball team came in once, and they stay forever and move all the tables," an employee said in the Reddit thread. It's likely not the response that the person asking for Five Guys workers' benefits was looking for. "Nothing worse than when someone stays until 10:20 and you can't start closing till they leave."

Five Guys workers come up with their own special orders

At first glance, the Five Guys menu seems pretty straightforward. There's the option for a hamburger, cheeseburger, bacon burger, or bacon cheeseburger (all with two patties) or the choice for a "little" version that only has one patty. Where things get crazy are the free toppings. There are 15 free toppings listed on the Five Guys menu, ranging from basic ingredients like lettuce and mayo to the somewhat more adventurous like barbecue sauce, hot sauce, and A1 sauce.

That leaves a lot of room for customized special orders, and no one knows special orders better than the people making the food. One Five Guys worker posted on Reddit that the most delicious ("and ridiculous") burger is a Little Bacon Cheeseburger on a grilled cheese with a hotdog inside as well as the burger patty. To make it even more extra, the worker adds lettuce, pickles, jalapenos, ketchup, and mustard.

It's not always that complicated, though. Another worker posted on Reddit that their usual special order is a bacon cheeseburger with extra cheese, extra bacon, double extra lettuce, and double extra grilled onions. What really sets it apart is that everything is in a "bowl" rather than squeezed between two pieces of bread. The "bowls" at Five Guys involve no actual bowls, though. Instead, all the ingredients are wrapped in foil sans bun.

Five Guys workers say there's no recognized 'secret menu'

Pretty much everyone loves to be in on a secret, but at Five Guys, there isn't a true secret menu that's universally recognized by employees. On Reddit, a Five Guys worker confessed that, unlike that other popular burger chain In-N-Out, if you order off of a supposed secret menu at Five Guys, you'll likely be met with a blank stare.

One time, for example, that worker was asked for a "presidential burger" (made famous by President Barack Obama) from the secret menu. Not knowing what that consists of, the employee asked what was in it. Turned out, the customer wasn't all that sure either, which put the staff in a tough spot because "we can't pull out our phones on the line and look up secret menu items," the employee wrote on Reddit.

The lack of a secret menu hasn't stopped some people from trying to will one into existence, however. There's a lot of potential due to all of the free toppings, and even if some favorite orders lack a catchy, recognizable name, there are plenty of combinations that work. You just need to know how to properly order them.

For example, if you want a patty melt, order a grilled cheese, and then add a patty and any toppings you want. That presidential burger that caused some confusion is better understood when ordered as a cheeseburger with lettuce, tomatoes, jalapenos, and mustard.

Five Guys workers have faced wage discrimination, wage theft, and harassment in the past

Everyone deserves equal pay for equal work. Five Guys regrettably does not have a perfect record when it comes to making sure that's the case, though. In 2018, a case was brought against the fast food chain that stated Five Guys paid its female managers less than its male managers. The suit claimed that Five Guys violated the Equal Pay Act, and a former employee named Jody Finefrock claimed she made $5,000 less as an assistant manager than the male assistant manager she trained, according to Bloomberg Law. Additionally, she apparently made $2,000 less than the male general managers after she was promoted. The judge ruled in favor of Finefrock and Julia Francis, another woman who accused Five Guys of violating the Equal Pay Act.

Other blights on the Five Guys record include a claim in 2012 in San Diego that workers were denied breaks and overtime. In 2013 and 2014, a manager at one of the chain's locations reportedly mocked and then fired an employee with HIV in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to

These are just a few of the scandals brought up by Five Guys workers that have plagued the company over the years.

No timers means Five Guys workers need to know how to actually cook the food

Timers make working in the kitchen easier. It's not hard to stay consistent, after all, when everything is cooked for a set amount of time on the same machine. Five Guys kitchens buck the timers, though. That means, as one former employee wrote on Reddit, workers "essentially have to learn how to cook."

Jerry Murrell, the founder of Five Guys, told NBC that there's a simple reason for the lack of timers: "Good cooks know when food's done." It's just one of the ways that Five Guys trusts its workers to be able to do more than set it and forget it. Fries are shaken exactly fifteen times, for example, and the onion and bacon go below the patty while pickles and tomatoes go on top.

One of the things that makes the no-timer rule a little easier on Five Guys workers is that the patties are thin, which was a choice Five Guys made early on in the company's existence. Burgers started out thicker, but they got dry because they have to be cooked for longer. The thin burgers make it easy to achieve the right texture and doneness — plus, they're easier for workers to learn how to cook. To keep the burgers just as filling as one larger patty, two patties are put on the standard burgers (if you want a single, go for the "Little" burgers).

Secret shoppers and customer reviews matter more to Five Guys workers than you think

The one person all Five Guys workers have to keep an eye out for is someone they don't even know the appearance of. Secret shoppers are a big deal at Five Guys. One worker posted on Reddit that secret shopper feedback makes it to the store every time, and employees are listed by name in the reports. In some regions, Five Guys rewards the locations that score the highest secret shopper average per quarter with a bonus.

In the r/FiveGuys channel, a secret shopper posted that they have worked various Five Guys locations about 50 times. For that person, Five Guys is the easiest restaurant around when it comes to evaluations. But that might be because employees have learned to spot secret shopper patterns.

In replies to the secret shopper's post in r/FiveGuys, employees admitted that there are certain tics they're taught to look out for because the secret shopper scores really matter. One is ordering a shake with two to three flavors along with their burger and fries. Another is to watch for customers who are making eye contact with the employees — especially if that person came to the restaurant alone and double-checks that the condiments station is full. And though there may not be timers in the kitchens, secret shoppers often have them. It's a lot for a worker to keep track of to make sure there aren't any slip-ups.

Five Guys workers have to expect customer complaints about overfilled fries

If you've ever ordered fries at Five Guys, then there's a good chance you are familiar with a bunch of extra fries thrown in your bag of food. This isn't a case of employees hooking their favorite customers up. The extra scoop is actually standard policy to make people think they're getting a bargain, according to Taste of Home. But it can be a point of contention for some workers, and some customers complain that it's simply too many fries to actually enjoy and they'd rather just have a cheaper meal.

The amount of waste is one aspect of the fry policy that can get on an employee's nerves. One Five Guys worker posted on Reddit that the majority of people get a little or regular fry. Still, some kids come in and insist on ordering a large fry for themselves, which is "enough fries for three adults." The employee continued that it's a "waste of money, waste of product, and the kid is already starting to make unhealthy life decisions. Really gets under my skin."

Other employees have posted on Reddit that they've had customers try to fend off any issues before they get their order. Customers who aren't regulars aren't aware of how many fries come with each order, one former employee posted, and "a lot of people actually asked me not to fill the bags because they get oily and rip."

Some Five Guys workers receive college tuition assistance and free food

The company has a college tuition assistance program to help Five Guys workers achieve their education goals. The company has a limit on who can join in, though, so it's not as generous as Chipotle's well-known college reimbursement program that's available to all workers after a set employment length. On the company website, Five Guys notes that only Five Guys Enterprise and Five Guys Operations employees are eligible for college aid.

For those employees, Five Guys has partnered with Guild Education to enroll workers in high school and college degree programs. Each is designed to be easy to complete for adults who work full time, and are done at accredited, non-profit universities. For those interested in a degree in business administration, hospitality management, or finance, Five Guys offers 100 percent tuition coverage, as well as up to $5,250 per year for other select degrees.

College isn't in the books for everyone, though. There is, however, always the benefit of free and discounted food. According to reviews on Indeed and on Glassdoor, the free or discounted meals can be one of the biggest pros of working at Five Guys. One Reddit user even posted that free food is the main, and only, benefit of working at the chain.