Burgers are a big business in America. Half of Americans have a burger once a week. Which means that in over a year we’ll down over 13 billion burgers nationally. This is a $40 billion dollar business, and fresh consumer research suggests that a great customer experience — and a tasty burger with free peanuts — can trump more established brands, even with absent advertising.
In a survey of 7,600 consumers, Market Force Information, a Boulder, Colorado-based market research company, found that Five Guys Famous Burgers and Fries is the most preferred burger chain (quick service restaurant) in the US.
The upstart brand was the top chain across all five U.S. regions, receiving the highest marks across all major service attributes measured, except value. And that’s exactly the recipe to support value pricing, to the victor belong the spoils of high margin.
Janet Eden-Harris at Market Force noted in the study, “Five Guys does zero advertising but by delivering consistently great customer experience, they’re able to build a word-of-mouth buzz that continues to bring new customers through the door.”
And though Five Guys started as a family run burger restaurant in Washington DC, it now has a reported 1,000+ franchises around the US. So, building the kind of quality and culture to gain this standing is a sign of a real commitment.
Delivering a Shared Passion
From the time you enter a Five Guys their intent is clear – to make the burger you’re about to order be the best you’ve ever had. That’s why their press clips immodestly encircle the restaurant. It’s a value claim that everything inside those walls is for.
Every company has the chance to have a shared passion with their audience; Five Guys wants burger fanatics. They’ll provide free peanuts, free sandwich toppings resulting in 250,000 different choices to make your idea meal.
Unlike most of the other quick serve restaurants in the survey, Five Guys puts their kitchen right in plain view. You can watch your burger being made to order. Stores aren’t allowed to have freezers, which means all burgers are made with fresh beef.
Food portions get “over delivered” with a third more fries in every container than they can hold, so the bags holding your meal are stained with peanut oil before they get to the table.
Cultivating the Right Culture
Newt Barrett over at Content Marketing Today singled out the Five Guys customer experience for their use of secret shoppers. Rather than focusing on deficiencies, their secret shopper program is all about amping up success, and making sure their staff have fantastic in-person customer exchanges.
That’s because of a company-wide imperative on creating fanatic repeat customers. The kind of customers who will download desktop wallpaper for their PC, or buy and wear branded merchandise through the Five Guys website. And you can see this support on in-store bulletin boards, and an active Facebook community with over 825,000 participants.
Loyalty Trumps Share of Voice
And, may I mention for the third time, this loyalty and growth is based on the food and experience customers enjoy inside restaurants, not paid media. Five Guys knows that what it takes to be remarkable in the burger industry is raving fans. So along with burgers and hot dogs and fries, fanatic customers are really what Five Guys is in the business of making.
West Coast favorite In-N-Out Burger, which also is known for its passionate fans and strong customer word-of-mouth, ranked second among consumers. Fuddruckers, A&W and Smashburger completed the top five. Of the restaurants that were studied, McDonald’s ranked at the bottom for food quality / taste and A&W ranked last in the remaining categories, including friendly service, value, cleanliness and atmosphere.
Raving fans are earned, and with them come all the benefits of loyalty and word of mouth. The companies at the top of Market Force’s research have the advantage of consumer preference. And in the Age of the Customer, that’s a return on investment that ad dollars just can’t buy.