The new burger war: 5 Guys vs In-N-Out vs Shake Shack">Five Guys Shake Shack In-N-Out

The new burger war: 5 Guys vs In-N-Out vs Shake Shack

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in How to Guide for Marketers

 

When I was a kid, after my hockey practices, my mom and I used to go to Burger King. It became our tradition. What did i like the best? It was nice and quiet, compared to the crowded noisy McDonald’s right across the street. There were no lines, no one taking up the great seat locations. It was so quiet, it was almost zen. Even today, Burger King remains the place you go if you don’t like crowds.

Today, there’s a new burger war heating up:

  • 5 Guys Burgers
  • In-N-Out Burger
  • Shake Shack

Who will win? It might depend where you live. If you are in California, you may be partial to In-N-Out, if you are a New Yorker, it is Shack Shake for sure. Everywhere else, it looks like 5 Guys is the dominant brand. This is a brand site, so we look at this through the eyes of marketers and consumers, not food critiques. I am also a burger fan.

Who has the best burger?

I know there is a lot of debate out there. Lets dispel the myth here: they are almost the same piece of meat. They take a high quality ground chuck, and squish it firmly onto a grill, use a cooking technique to lock in the flavor and create a juicy burger. It is a much higher quality meat than McDonald’s and much juicier in the end due to the cooking technique.

The only difference is at 5 Guys, the burger feels like the burger actually breaks apart more which could make it feel less fast-food while In-N-Out feels very neatly stacked. I do like the bacon at Five Guys, but In-N-Out does a nicely toasted bun. Small details.

VERDICT:  Tie

Fries versus shakes

5 Guys FriesIf the burger is a relative tie, then what else can you look at. 5 Guys wins on fries, Shake Shack or In-N-Out wins on Shakes.  I’m a big fries fan, and 5 Guys does have pretty darn good addicting fries. They give you enough that you likely won’t finish them.  The In-N-Out fries (except for Animal Fries) are a little bit nondescript and boring. I do like the crinkle cut style Shake Shack fries, but they are frozen, not fresh. In terms of shakes, the In-N-Out shakes are legendary, whereas 5 Guys is completely missing out by not even having a shake. Verdict:  Tie, pick your poison and likely only have it once in a while.  

Who has better atmosphere?

I have to say, neither In-N-Out or Five Guys have a nice atmosphere.  The In-N-Out restaurants have the plastic feel of a McDonald’s, with booths too small to fit those who can eat a double-double. The hats on the employees are cute, giving it a 50’s diner feel. The 5 Guys atmosphere feels like a Costco, with dusty floors, crappy little tables and chairs. Plus, do we really need 50 signs per restaurant telling us how great you are. There is no effort on their store atmosphere. What you are doing is opening up the door to local establishments finding a niche against both of these with a cooler pub-like atmosphere. The Shake Shack locations are much nicer. If you ever get the chance to go to the original Shake Shack in NYC, it is worth it. I was doing some work with an ad agency, and arrived a couple of hours before the meeting. I didn’t feel like going up early and I noticed about 50 people lined up for lunch at this “shack” in the park.  Every time I have Shake Shack whether in Dubai or throughout the US, I still think of the park. A litlte like my first Movenpick experience, 20 years ago, in the middle of the swiss alps. Verdict: Shake Shack

Five Guys Shake Shack In-N-Out

 

Where does In-N-Out Burger win?

Clearly as I’ve heard from the fans, In-N-Out does a great job engaging with their consumers. The secret menu and the secret sauce, the traditions of the double-double and the “animal fries” all help create a “club” filled with brand fans who will take on anyone that knocks their brand.  There’s a slight difference in who each attracts.  In-N-Out’s menu items are generally less expensive — the chain is most popular with young men ages 18 to 24 with an income of less than $70,000 a year, according to NPD. By contrast, Five Guys patrons are generally 25 to 50 years old, with an income of more than $100,000. In-N-Out seems to have a more engaged consumer base that it can leverage as 5 Guys is now into the Southern California market ready to do battle right in the backyard of In-N-Out.t this point, In-N-Out is stuck as a West Coast brand, in California, Arizona, Nevada and now Texas, giving them only 320 locations.  They have not expanded very quickly, believing it is better to be loved by a few than tolerated by many. This gives them a regional strength and more emotional engagement goes to In-N-Out.

Where does 5 Guys win?

5 Guys has been much more aggressive on their expansion plan. They have pursued winning on review sites and lists that can help drive awareness for the brand. In 2010, they won the Zagat best burger. They have aggressively gone after celebrities such as Shaq and Obama. And most of all, they are winning on location, location and even more location.  5 Guys is everywhere, with 1000+ locations, fairly national and even in Canada. They are clearly following the McDonald’s real estate strategy by trying to be everywhere. The other area where 5 Guys wins is pricing. I am a marketer, so the more price you can command the better. For relatively the same burger, 5 Guys charges twice what In-N-Out charges. In this current stagnant economy, people are proving they’d rather pay $10 for an amazing quality burger than $15 for a lousy steak. It feels like In-N-Out is leaving money on the table with the prices that are just slightly above the McDonald’s price points. More aggressive growth goes to 5 Guys. 

Where does Shake Shack win?

They were definitely late the expansion party, with only 120 stores at this point. The NYC location in the park is such a part of their brand, yet it also drives a lot of revenue. At one point, Shake Shack thought they would stay a “New York only brand” which is part of their delay. Right now, the US market is fairly saturated with burger shops, so they now have 30% of their locations overseas including Seoul, Tokyo, London, Cardiff, Istanbul, Moscow, Muscat, Beirut, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Doha, Kuwait City, Riyadh. Pretty smart strategy to see an opportunity in those markets and close on them before the others could. I would say, the more interesting locations goes to Shake Shack. 

So who will win?  

At this point the clear winner will be 5 Guys. Just like McDonald’s versus Burger King in the original burger war, it’s not as much about the burger itself but about the aggressive pursuit of real estate. Unless In-N-Out wakes up, take all that brand love they have generated among their fans and they go on an 5-year big expansion, they will be relegated to a regional brand we only visit on our road trips to California.

5 Guys is quickly becoming the upscale version of McDonald’s

To read more about how the love for a brand creates more power and profits:

 

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, we promise that we will make your brand stronger and your brand leaders smarter. We can help you come up with your brand’s Brand Positioning, Big Idea and Brand Concept. We also can help create Brand Plans that everyone in your organization can follow and helps to focus your Marketing Execution. We provide a new way to look at Brand Management, that uses a provocative approach to align your brand to the sound fundamentals of brand management. 

We will make your team of Brand Leaders smarter so they can produce exceptional work that drives stronger brand results. We offer brand training on every subject in marketing, related to strategic thinking, analytics, brand planning, positioning, creative briefs, customer marketing and marketing execution. 

To contact us, email us at graham@beloved-brands.com or call us at 416-885-3911. You can also find us on Twitter @belovedbrands

 

Beloved Brands Graham Robertson 

 

 

 

 

The new burger war: 5 Guys vs In-N-Out vs Shake Shack

Posted on 8 CommentsPosted in How to Guide for Marketers

 

Five Guys Shake Shack In-N-Out

When I was a kid, after my hockey practices, my mom and I used to go to Burger King. It became our tradition. What did i like the best? It was nice and quiet, compared to the crowded noisy McDonald’s right across the street. There were no lines, no one taking up the great seat locations. It was so quiet, it was almost zen. Even today, Burger King remains the place you go if you don’t like crowds.

Today, there’s a new burger war heating up:

  • 5 Guys Burgers
  • In-N-Out Burger
  • Shake Shack

Who will win? It might depend where you live. If you are in California, you may be partial to In-N-Out, if you are a New Yorker, it is Shack Shake for sure. Everywhere else, it looks like 5 Guys is the dominant brand. This is a brand site, so we look at this through the eyes of marketers and consumers, not food critiques. I am also a burger fan.

Who has the best burger?

I know there is a lot of debate out there. Lets dispel the myth here: they are almost the same piece of meat. They take a high quality ground chuck, and squish it firmly onto a grill, use a cooking technique to lock in the flavor and create a juicy burger. It is a much higher quality meat than McDonald’s and much juicier in the end due to the cooking technique.

The only difference is at 5 Guys, the burger feels like the burger actually breaks apart more which could make it feel less fast-food while In-N-Out feels very neatly stacked. I do like the bacon at Five Guys, but In-N-Out does a nicely toasted bun. Small details.

VERDICT:  Tie

Fries versus shakes

5 Guys FriesIf the burger is a relative tie, then what else can you look at. 5 Guys wins on fries, Shake Shack or In-N-Out wins on Shakes.  I’m a big fries fan, and 5 Guys does have pretty darn good addicting fries. They give you enough that you likely won’t finish them.  The In-N-Out fries (except for Animal Fries) are a little bit nondescript and boring. I do like the crinkle cut style Shake Shack fries, but they are frozen, not fresh. In terms of shakes, the In-N-Out shakes are legendary, whereas 5 Guys is completely missing out by not even having a shake. Verdict:  Tie, pick your poison and likely only have it once in a while.  

Who has better atmosphere?

I have to say, neither In-N-Out or Five Guys have a nice atmosphere.  The In-N-Out restaurants have the plastic feel of a McDonald’s, with booths too small to fit those who can eat a double-double. The hats on the employees are cute, giving it a 50’s diner feel. The 5 Guys atmosphere feels like a Costco, with dusty floors, crappy little tables and chairs. Plus, do we really need 50 signs per restaurant telling us how great you are. There is no effort on their store atmosphere. What you are doing is opening up the door to local establishments finding a niche against both of these with a cooler pub-like atmosphere. The Shake Shack locations are much nicer. If you ever get the chance to go to the original Shake Shack in NYC, it is worth it. I was doing some work with an ad agency, and arrived a couple of hours before the meeting. I didn’t feel like going up early and I noticed about 50 people lined up for lunch at this “shack” in the park.  Every time I have Shake Shack whether in Dubai or throughout the US, I still think of the park. A litlte like my first Movenpick experience, 20 years ago, in the middle of the swiss alps. Verdict: Shake Shack

Five Guys Shake Shack In-N-Out

 

Where does In-N-Out Burger win?

Clearly as I’ve heard from the fans, In-N-Out does a great job engaging with their consumers. The secret menu and the secret sauce, the traditions of the double-double and the “animal fries” all help create a “club” filled with brand fans who will take on anyone that knocks their brand.  There’s a slight difference in who each attracts.  In-N-Out’s menu items are generally less expensive — the chain is most popular with young men ages 18 to 24 with an income of less than $70,000 a year, according to NPD. By contrast, Five Guys patrons are generally 25 to 50 years old, with an income of more than $100,000. In-N-Out seems to have a more engaged consumer base that it can leverage as 5 Guys is now into the Southern California market ready to do battle right in the backyard of In-N-Out.t this point, In-N-Out is stuck as a West Coast brand, in California, Arizona, Nevada and now Texas, giving them only 320 locations.  They have not expanded very quickly, believing it is better to be loved by a few than tolerated by many. This gives them a regional strength and more emotional engagement goes to In-N-Out.

Where does 5 Guys win?

5 Guys has been much more aggressive on their expansion plan. They have pursued winning on review sites and lists that can help drive awareness for the brand. In 2010, they won the Zagat best burger. They have aggressively gone after celebrities such as Shaq and Obama. And most of all, they are winning on location, location and even more location.  5 Guys is everywhere, with 1000+ locations, fairly national and even in Canada. They are clearly following the McDonald’s real estate strategy by trying to be everywhere. The other area where 5 Guys wins is pricing. I am a marketer, so the more price you can command the better. For relatively the same burger, 5 Guys charges twice what In-N-Out charges. In this current stagnant economy, people are proving they’d rather pay $10 for an amazing quality burger than $15 for a lousy steak. It feels like In-N-Out is leaving money on the table with the prices that are just slightly above the McDonald’s price points. More aggressive growth goes to 5 Guys. 

Where does Shake Shack win?

They were definitely late the expansion party, with only 120 stores at this point. The NYC location in the park is such a part of their brand, yet it also drives a lot of revenue. At one point, Shake Shack thought they would stay a “New York only brand” which is part of their delay. Right now, the US market is fairly saturated with burger shops, so they now have 30% of their locations overseas including Seoul, Tokyo, London, Cardiff, Istanbul, Moscow, Muscat, Beirut, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Doha, Kuwait City, Riyadh. Pretty smart strategy to see an opportunity in those markets and close on them before the others could. I would say, the more interesting locations goes to Shake Shack. 

So who will win?  

At this point the clear winner will be 5 Guys. Just like McDonald’s versus Burger King in the original burger war, it’s not as much about the burger itself but about the aggressive pursuit of real estate. Unless In-N-Out wakes up, take all that brand love they have generated among their fans and they go on an 5-year big expansion, they will be relegated to a regional brand we only visit on our road trips to California.

5 Guys is quickly becoming the upscale version of McDonald’s

To read more about how the love for a brand creates more power and profits:

 

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, we promise that we will make your brand stronger and your brand leaders smarter. We can help you come up with your brand’s Brand Positioning, Big Idea and Brand Concept. We also can help create Brand Plans that everyone in your organization can follow and helps to focus your Marketing Execution. We provide a new way to look at Brand Management, that uses a provocative approach to align your brand to the sound fundamentals of brand management. 

We will make your team of Brand Leaders smarter so they can produce exceptional work that drives stronger brand results. We offer brand training on every subject in marketing, related to strategic thinking, analytics, brand planning, positioning, creative briefs, customer marketing and marketing execution. 

To contact us, email us at graham@beloved-brands.com or call us at 416-885-3911. You can also find us on Twitter @belovedbrands

 

Beloved Brands Graham Robertson 

 

 

 

 

The Beloved Burger: BURGER’S PRIEST.

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Beloved Brands in the Market

Original Story, October 2011:  This saturday, I visited THE BURGER’S PRIEST in Toronto.

Great Mystique created around the whole Priest thing. Different makes them stand out.
Burger 9 out of 10, fries 6.5 out of 10.

Even before you try the burger, you hear the story first, and it’s quite crazy.   That’s the way a brand should be.  I have had quite a few people tell me that the Burgers Priest was clearly the best in Toronto.   But then they get into the story telling of what they know.   Part of the story is this idea of a secret menu, that you have to ask for.   Funny enough but if you google “Priest Secret Menu”, you’ll see about 15 stories come up from various Food Critic reviews.   Confirms that it’s a marketing ploy–and a great one for driving word of mouth.   The second part of the story is that the owner, who most describe as crazy, even though they never likely interact with him.   Apparently, one day he was looking for a really good burger and couldn’t find one.  So, he decided to just get in his car and drive until he could find one.  He ended up in his car for six months, travelling all through the US from New York to the South, through Texas and Out to California and back.   He was intent on learning about the secrets of the best hamburgers he could find.   He’s has photos, up at the Priest, of all the great burger places that inspired this burger.   Once back, he took all the great ideas and build his own burger.   He’s layered in the idea that this burger is a religious experience, with the priest idea.  And the mission is to  missio “redeem the burger one at a time”.  That’s the brand story anyway.

Now with a brand story, you need to create buzz.  Word of mouth on this is amazing.   When I got there, just before noon on Saturday, there were already 10 people in line about 10 minutes before the place was open.   I also saw the attached sign, asking people to line up to the left to avoid blocking the entrance to the Apartment.   I looked for the appartment, and it’s about a good 50 feet away.

Here's the sign they had in the window. Line ups are good for brand value

So clearly, all the story and mystique has created a word of mouth that is getting people to travel for this burger.   It’s 45 min from my house, and I ran into someone I knew who lives 45 minutes the other way.   Both of us just felt compelled to try it.  Keep in mind, the stories he’s created help drive word of mouth and in turn demand.   The line up makes things much more predictable for him, so the food is fresher/better tasting.   He can manage his inventories, staff accordingly and drive down his costs by driving up his volume.   Plus, I would have paid anything at this moment for the burger.   Lastly, I started to tell my friend in line that about the Five Guys burger I had which was amazing and a stranger jumped into our conversation to defend his priest, saying it’s not even close.   Already has brand advocates defending the brand.   He’s clearly working his branded business system.

As for the burger, it was ideal.   I’d say it’s a tie with Five Guys Burgers–which has a story unto itself–with celebrity endorsement like Obama and Shaquille O’Neil.   Both use the same technique of keeping the burger juicy, while ensuring it’s well done on the outside.  Very similar taste.   (More bacon on the Five Guys, and the Fries are better)  The fries at the Priest need improving to be great.    Poor Licks, a Toronto icon for many years, has been losing out the last few.  The only good thing about Licks now, is there’s never any wait and you can have a nice quiet meal (e.g. no one goes there)

For those of you looking for a great burger, I’d recommend it for sure.  For those of you looking for unique marketing and seeing how a small business is trying to drive a BELOVED BURGER, this is a great example.  Not sure if he spent six months figuring out the world’s best burger, or just six months becoming the world’s best marketer.   A great brand in the making.

Top 3 Burgers in Toronto (my view)

  1. Five Guys Burgers
  2. Burgers Priest
  3. Craft Burger (now the Big Smoke)

http://theburgerspriest.com

Nov 16th, 2011, Update to the Story:  Burger’s Priest opening a second location in North Toronto, on Yonge Street between York Mills and Lawrence.  Great location choice.   Talk of further expansion into the West end of Toronto, likely High Park or Bloor West Village.   Need a good income level to afford 9 dollar burgers.   It will be interesting to see how many they put into Toronto, and then into the rest of Canada.   One big fan of the Priest who I told was actually disappointed about the expansion plans..