Why Five Guys Is So Particular About Its Potatoes

When they opened their flagship store in Arlington, Virginia in 1986, Five Guys threw away the rule book for how a burger chain should operate and did it their own way. According to Delish, the chain was founded by Jerry and Janie Murrell when they gave their four (soon to be five) sons the choice of either going to college or starting a business. The younger Murrells were uninterested in attending higher ed, so Five Guys Burgers and Fries was born.

The chain has seen incredible growth since their founding, with almost 1,700 locations worldwide and another 1,500 units in development, according to their official website. Scaling a restaurant to this degree usually means cutting corners in the name of efficiency, but rest assured that Five Guys refuses to compromise and insists on only using fresh ground beef and real peanut oil, and not having freezers in any of their stores, but rather just coolers to keep ingredients fresh.

Using fresh potatoes, never frozen, is one of the reasons that Five Guys' fries have a cult following and rank among the best french fries in fast food. According to Food Republic, Five Guys was inspired by the "boardwalk fries" that the Murrell family enjoyed while on vacation in Ocean City, Maryland. In true "boardwalk style," Five Guys' fries are meant to be firm on the outside and have a mashed potato interior, not necessarily crispy like other chains. In order to achieve this specific style of fry, they need the right potato for the job.

Denser, higher quality potatoes make better fries at Five Guys

Five Guys explained in a Facebook post that most of their potatoes come from Idaho, specifically north of the 42nd parallel. "Potatoes are like oak trees — the slower they grow, the more solid they are. We like northern potatoes, because they grow in the daytime when it is warm, but then they stop at night when it cools down. It would be a lot easier and cheaper if we got a California or Florida potato," Founder Jerry Murrell told Inc.  

In the same article, he noted that, for two months out of the year, the company cannot use their usual Russet Burbank Idaho potatoes because they are too soft and absorb the peanut oil too much, so it's only then that they substitute in Russet Norkotah potatoes from Washington.

Although fries may seem like the easiest component of running a burger chain, Five Guys originally set out to make theirs difficult to recreate. "You can cook your own burger in the backyard, but you can't make fries like ours unless you buy the best ingredients and practice our methods. It's a lot harder than just buying fresh potatoes. We call our fry cooks mad scientists," Chad Murrell, one of the five sons, told Food Republic.

Some say it's the peanut oil, some say it's the texture, but the real reason Five Guys fries taste so good is the time and effort they put into sourcing their ingredients.