Why Five Guys Was The First Fast Food Chain With Coca-Cola Freestyle Machines

Coca-Cola's Freestyle machines are diffuse in Five Guys across the country nowadays, but budding soda jerks might be curious about where the idea for this machine — that allows you to customize your drink with a multitude of beverage choices and flavor add-ons — was born and why the popular restaurant group was the first to roll them out en masse. It started with the World of Coca-Cola attraction in Atlanta, which first opened to the public in 1990. Here, the Spectacular Soda Fountain and Club Coca-Cola gave visitors the opportunity to sample a variety of soft drink flavors from regional U.S. markets and international operations (per the official website). 

Then, a new World of Coca-Cola opened in 2007, bringing with it a revamped Taste It! exhibit that continued the tradition of letting fans try various sodas from around the U.S. and the world that would be difficult for people to get their hands on otherwise. But, to travel to Atlanta just to pay an admission fee for the sole purpose of drinking soda might seem pointless when there are other options closer to home. Rather than weave your way through the misery of TSA airport security, you can just head to Five Guys, and check out their ever-popular Coca-Cola Freestyle machines that provide nearly the same experience.

More than 100 flavor combinations are possible with this mix-and-match machine

So, you've got your Five Guys cheeseburger and Cajun fries, but now you need a drink. Should it be a Coke Raspberry, Strawberry Pibb Xtra, or maybe even a Peach Vitamin Water? Taste one, all three, or any of the other 100-plus flavor combinations with the tap of just a couple of buttons on a Coca-Cola Freestyle machine. That's the beauty of this mix-and-match feature that you can find at all 156 company-owned locations, per Consumerist.

In fact, Five Guys became the largest (and the first) chain to introduce Coca-Cola Freestyle vending machines across multiple markets in 2011 after spending a year testing the Atlanta market (via Business Wire) — and, coincidentally, the burger chain has partnered with Coca-Cola since 1986, when they opened their first outlet in Arlington, Virginia. It clearly was a super successful move — subsequent to the rollout, the burger chain witnessed a significant increase in sales, not just in beverages, but also from the food menu, says the article. It also quoted Sam Chamberlain, Chief Operating Officer of Five Guys as saying they wanted to bring on the feature to "enhance the made-to-order dining experience our customers expect and enjoy."

Coca-Cola itself borrowed the "PurePour Technology" for the Freestyle machine from the health care industry, where originally it was utilized to help measure doses for cancer and dialysis patients. And it serves a dual purpose for the soda giant — to offer variety for its restaurant clients like Five Guys and their patrons, and to track which drinks are their top sellers, with that data being sent directly back to their Atlanta HQ (via Fast Company). Notably, in direct response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the soda vending machine has been further adapted by going touch-free (per USA Today); all users have to do is scan the machine's QR code — no app/sign-up required — and then create whichever combination piques their curiosity.