Two of the coolest names in the world of American burgers are about to switch on the grills and open the doors at their new London outposts. Five Guys swings open the doors on July 4th (fittingly), and Shake Shack follows just one day later.
They're both going to be awesome - one is the fastest growing restaurant chain in the US and the other is, well, Shake Shack, but which will be better? Using (too many) previous visits to both burger chains' NYC locations, and piecing together what we already know about the London outposts, BarChick's seeing how they stack up.
Five Guys - What started in 1986 as a family company in Arlington County, Virginia, is now the fastest-growing restaurant chain in the US, with over 1,000 locations (according to Forbes). This is their first venue outside North America.
Shake Shack - Danny Meyer turned a Madison Square Park hot dog cart into a burger haven in 2004. He now has Shacks in six US states, as well as venues in the Middle East and, oddly enough, Turkey.
5G - Charles Dunstone, founder of Carphone warehouse is the reason Five Guys has jumped the pond, he's 50% partner in the UK's restaurants. The company's founders, the Murrell family, hold the other 50%. The Murrell's started their little burger company 30 years ago instead of sending their four sons off to college. They're now reportedly worth about US$400 million.
SS - Danny Meyer, CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group, who brought us some of NYC's best (and most romantic) restaurants, like Gramercy Tavern and 11 Madison Park. This guy knows his stuff. If you don't believe us you should read his book.
5G - Aiming for five outlets in London, followed by expansion around the UK.
SS - We hear that at least three Shake Shacks are planned for London.
THE LONDON VENUES
5G - Opening in the former Long Acre bar space on a busy foot traffic corner in Covent Garden, we predict lines around the block.
SS - In the Covent Garden Market Building. The fryers will be working overtime to keep up with the tourists.
5G – Five Guys prides themselves on their fresh and handmade ingredients. A standard burger comes with two patties, and buns are topped with sesame seeds, The extraordinary thing is that there is no extra charge for toppings, there are 15 to choose from, and you can have as many as you want. Challenge accepted!
SS – Meyer trekked all around the UK sourcing premium, local product for Shake Shack. Burgers are made from freshly ground 100% Scottish Aberdeen Angus beef, the buns are potato rolls toasted in butter, they are the best things ever.
5G – Epic, crispy, amazing. Skin on or Cajun style, all fried to perfection in peanut oil
SS – Crinkle cut, with cheese or not, the choice is yours.
5G – Refillable sodas and beers, sounds simple, but with over 100 different variations on offer you have more options than you could ever wish for.
SS – ShackMeister Ale (made by Brooklyn Brewery just for SS), California wines, Root beer and Creamsicle floats, and of course that brain freeze of a Frozen Custard shake. Theres a load of Meantime and Cider too, all that’s missing is some bourbon!
WHAT TO ORDER
5G – Cheeseburger, but load it up with all 15 of the toppings, we dare ya.
SS – The Shackburger. Trust. Veggies have a go on the Shroom Burger.
WHAT ABOUT THE QUEUE?
5G - The Five Guys website allows you to order online and then pick up your burger when its ready.
SS - If the Madison Square Park venue is anything to go by there WILL be a line, but hungry burger fans will be given a beeper and alerted when their food is ready to be picked up.
BUT IT'S AMERICAN RIGHT?
5G - They are sourcing everything from the UK where possible, but will ship over items from the US if our stuff doesn't meet their standards.
SS - Meyer has spent a year or so sourcing the best British beef for Shake Shack, but the potato buns are being shipped over from the States (thank GOD).
5G - There are over 250,000 ways to order a burger at Five Guys AND it has President Obama's stamp of approval.
SS - Shake Shack has a list of green initiatives, like recycling their oil for bio-fuel. There's also a 'woof' menu, you can buy a little frozen custard treat just for your pooch.
Watch this space!