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11 Flavorful Facts About Five Guys

The build-to-order burger chain has become one of the fastest growing franchises in the country, even while refusing to deliver or advertise. Check out what else has made this family company such a delicious success.

1. FUNDING FOR THE FIRST FIVE GUYS CAME FROM A COLLEGE SAVINGS ACCOUNT.

Five Guys' initial $70,000 in startup funds was meant to pay college tuition for Jerry and Janie Murrell's (at the time) four sons. They sensed their oldest children were on the fence about heading off to college, and the pair offered an alternative in 1986: using the tuition money to launch a family burger joint. Jerry Murrell, who now acts as Five Guys' CEO, has said the idea was about keeping his family together. "They weren't scholars ... I always liked having my kids around me, so I thought that was a good way to do it." That same year, the family launched the first Five Guys location in Arlington, Virginia.

2. THERE ARE REALLY SIX GUYS, NOT FIVE.

When the first Five Guys launched, Jerry Murrell and his four sons—Jim, Matt, Chad and Ben—made up the restaurant's namesake. But a year after opening for business, another son, Tyler, was born into the family. Jerry Murrell now says the Five Guys name references only his sons.

3. HAVE A PEANUT ALLERGY? FIVE GUYS IS YOUR WORST NIGHTMARE.

Five Guys fries all its food with 100% peanut oil, and offers complimentary bins of peanuts for customers to snack on while waiting for their order to come up. Five Guys does acknowledge its peanut-laden atmosphere with labels on its doors and asks customers to keep nuts within the restaurant to prevent causing possible reactions outside its doors. 

4. FIVE GUYS HOLDS FAST TO ITS 'NO DELIVERY' RULE—EVEN WITH THE PENTAGON. AND THE PRESIDENT.

Pentagon officials once called in a 15-burger order, expecting delivery. When Five Guys staff responded that the restaurant didn't deliver, Jerry Murrell received a direct phone call from a Pentagon higher up, contesting the restaurant policy. Five Guys took extra steps to ensure everyone knew about its "no delivery" provision: "Matt and I got a 22-foot-long banner that said ABSOLUTELY NO DELIVERY and hung it in front of our store. And then our business from the Pentagon picked up," Murrell said

5. MILKSHAKES AREN'T A STANDARD SIDE.

That's because (most) Five Guys restaurants don't have freezers due to the company's focus on fresh ingredients. Jerry Murrell said customers often ask about the menu addition, and with some push, Five Guys began testing milkshakes at some of its East Coast restaurants in 2014. Within the past year, milkshake test locations have spread to Five Guys locations in 37 states and Washington D.C.

6. THE 'SECRET HACK' MENU IS ALL ABOUT CHEESE.

While Five Guys is all about building a custom burger or hotdog, you can't get certain supposed 'secret menu' items at all locations. Double grilled cheese burgers and cheese fries aren't on the standard menu, but some locations are willing to put them together for you. Other locations won't honor the order, but you can make your dietary dreams come true by ordering the components and putting them together yourself. 

7. THE MURRELL FAMILY INITIALLY BUTTED HEADS ABOUT FRANCHISING.

The Five Guys chain is considered one of the fastest growing U.S. franchises—even extending into Canada and London. But, the idea of creating a chain wasn't well accepted among the family. Jerry Murrell said he was against a Five Guys franchise, and that his family successfully launched the chain with him "kicking and screaming." Apparently, Murrell family disagreements can get rowdy, so the Five Guys office features a soundproof meeting room to keep arguments contained. 

8. SHAQ OWNS 155 FIVE GUYS LOCATIONS.

In 2013, the former basketball player told an NCAA convention crowd that one of his main business investments included 155 Five Guys restaurants—that's 10 percent of all franchise locations.

9. FIVE GUYS TAKES ITS MAYO SERIOUSLY.

During product taste testing, the Five Guys family tried 16 kinds of mayonnaise before deciding on the right kind. Each location uses the same mayo—and all ingredients for that matter, down to bread that's baked fresh daily and trucked or flown to nearby restaurants.

10. A YOUTUBE VLOGGER LANDED HIS OWN TV SHOW BECAUSE OF HIS FIVE GUYS REVIEW.

Fast food reviewer Daymon Patterson, known online as Daym Drops, struck greasy gold with a review of Five Guys burgers. His 2012 video description of a Five Guys meal ("You bite the fry, the fry bites back!") landed him a Travel channel show highlighting fast food restaurants around the country. "Best Daym Takeout" lasted six episodes before being canceled.

11. CEO JERRY MURRELL'S FAVORITE BURGER IS PRETTY PLAIN.

You'd think the patriarch of Five Guys would have an all-out custom favorite, but Jerry Murrell's burger of choice is as tame as it gets: a plain cheeseburger. Out of the restaurant's 250,000 ways to make a burger, he'll sometimes spring for a plain burger with ketchup and mustard. But that's the beauty of having a built-to-order burger—there's no wrong way to order it.

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A.C. Gilbert, the Toymaker Who (Actually) Saved Christmas 
Travel Salem via Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0
Travel Salem via Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

Alfred Carlton Gilbert was told he had 15 minutes to convince the United States government not to cancel Christmas.

For hours, he paced the outer hall, awaiting his turn before the Council of National Defense. With him were the tools of his trade: toy submarines, air rifles, and colorful picture books. As government personnel walked by, Gilbert, bashful about his cache of kid things, tried hiding them behind a leather satchel.

Finally, his name was called. It was 1918, the U.S. was embroiled in World War I, and the Council had made an open issue about their deliberation over whether to halt all production of toys indefinitely, turning factories into ammunition centers and even discouraging giving or receiving gifts that holiday season. Instead of toys, they argued, citizens should be spending money on war bonds. Playthings had become inconsequential.

Frantic toymakers persuaded Gilbert, founder of the A.C. Gilbert Company and creator of the popular Erector construction sets, to speak on their behalf. Toys in hand, he faced his own personal firing squad of military generals, policy advisors, and the Secretary of War.

Gilbert held up an air rifle and began to talk. What he’d say next would determine the fate of the entire toy industry.

Even if he had never had to testify on behalf of Christmas toys, A.C. Gilbert would still be remembered for living a remarkable life. Born in Oregon in 1884, Gilbert excelled at athletics, once holding the world record for consecutive chin-ups (39) and earning an Olympic gold medal in the pole vault during the 1908 Games. In 1909, he graduated from Yale School of Medicine with designs on remaining in sports as a health advisor.

But medicine wasn’t where Gilbert found his passion. A lifelong performer of magic, he set his sights on opening a business selling illusionist kits. The Mysto Manufacturing Company didn’t last long, but it proved to Gilbert that he had what it took to own and operate a small shingle. In 1916, three years after introducing the Erector sets, he renamed Mysto the A.C. Gilbert Company.

Erector was a big hit in the burgeoning American toy market, which had typically been fueled by imported toys from Germany. Kids could take the steel beams and make scaffolding, bridges, and other small-development projects. With the toy flying off shelves, Gilbert’s factory in New Haven, Connecticut grew so prosperous that he could afford to offer his employees benefits that were uncommon at the time, like maternity leave and partial medical insurance.

Gilbert’s reputation for being fair and level-headed led the growing toy industry to elect him their president for the newly created Toy Manufacturers of America, an assignment he readily accepted. But almost immediately, his position became something other than ceremonial: His peers began to grow concerned about the country’s involvement in the war and the growing belief that toys were a dispensable effort.

President Woodrow Wilson had appointed a Council of National Defense to debate these kinds of matters. The men were so preoccupied with the consequences of the U.S. marching into a European conflict that something as trivial as a pull-string toy or chemistry set seemed almost insulting to contemplate. Several toy companies agreed to convert to munitions factories, as did Gilbert. But when the Council began discussing a blanket prohibition on toymaking and even gift-giving, Gilbert was given an opportunity to defend his industry.

Before Gilbert was allowed into the Council’s chambers, a Naval guard inspected each toy for any sign of sabotage. Satisfied, he allowed Gilbert in. Among the officials sitting opposite him were Secretary of War Newton Baker and Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels.

“The greatest influences in the life of a boy are his toys,” Gilbert said. “Yet through the toys American manufacturers are turning out, he gets both fun and an education. The American boy is a genuine boy and wants genuine toys."

He drew an air rifle, showing the committee members how a child wielding less-than-lethal weapons could make for a better marksman when he was old enough to become a soldier. He insisted construction toys—like the A.C. Gilbert Erector Set—fostered creative thinking. He told the men that toys provided a valuable escape from the horror stories coming out of combat.

Armed with play objects, a boy’s life could be directed toward “construction, not destruction,” Gilbert said.

Gilbert then laid out his toys for the board to examine. Secretary Daniels grew absorbed with a toy submarine, marveling at the detail and asking Gilbert if it could be bought anywhere in the country. Other officials examined children’s books; one began pushing a train around the table.

The word didn’t come immediately, but the expressions on the faces of the officials told the story: Gilbert had won them over. There would be no toy or gift embargo that year.

Naturally, Gilbert still devoted his work floors to the production efforts for both the first and second world wars. By the 1950s, the A.C. Gilbert Company was dominating the toy business with products that demanded kids be engaged and attentive. Notoriously, he issued a U-238 Atomic Energy Lab, which came complete with four types of uranium ore. “Completely safe and harmless!” the box promised. A Geiger counter was included. At $50 each, Gilbert lost money on it, though his decision to produce it would earn him a certain infamy in toy circles.

“It was not suitable for the same age groups as our simpler chemistry and microscope sets, for instance,” he once said, “and you could not manufacture such a thing as a beginner’s atomic energy lab.”

Gilbert’s company reached an astounding $20 million in sales in 1953. By the mid-1960s, just a few years after Gilbert's death in 1961, it was gone, driven out of business by the apathy of new investors. No one, it seemed, had quite the same passion for play as Gilbert, who had spent over half a century providing fun and educational fare that kids were ecstatic to see under their trees.

When news of the Council’s 1918 decision reached the media, The Boston Globe's front page copy summed up Gilbert’s contribution perfectly: “The Man Who Saved Christmas.”

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Ho, No: Christmas Trees Will Be Expensive and Scarce This Year
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The annual tradition of picking out the healthiest, densest, biggest tree that you can tie to your car’s roof and stuff in your living room won’t be quite the same this year. According to The New York Times, Christmas trees will be scarce in some parts of the country and markedly more expensive overall.

The reason? Not Krampus, Belsnickel, or Scrooge, but something even more miserly: the American economy. The current situation has roots in 2008, when families were buying fewer trees due to the recession. Because more trees stayed in the ground, tree farms planted fewer seeds that year. And since firs grow in cycles of 8 to 10 years, we’re now arriving at a point where that diminished supply is beginning to impact the tree industry.

New York Times reporter Tiffany Hsu reports that 2017’s healthier holiday spending habits are set to drive up the price of trees as consumers vie for the choicest cuts on the market. In 2008, trees were just under $40 on average. Now, they’re $75 or more.

This doesn’t mean you can’t get a nice tree at a decent price—just that some farms will run out of prime selections more quickly and you might have to settle for something a little less impressive than in years past. Tree industry experts also caution that the shortages could last through 2025.

[h/t New York Times]

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