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One Minute Per Guy

November 16, 2009

If you made it all the way through yesterday’s post, you would know that today I am going to tell you a story.  Specifically a story about how I promised the area regional manager that I would return to Five Guys Famous Burgers and Fries.

It’s surprising, I know, since I love Five Guys.  Why would I be talking to the regional manager?  Why would I need to promise to return?

Despite my fussiness, I rarely complain – that’s a whole separate story.  But it is because I love them so that I felt compelled to submit a complaint online after a bad experience in the Schenectady location [insert snide comment about Schenectady here].

Maybe it’s because I’m watching too much Fringe or Sarah Connor Chronicles on Hulu, but I see a war coming – off in the distance.  A battle of burgers that will pit the eastern Five Guys against the beloved western In-N-Out.  And I want to see Five Guys come out on top.  But for them to win, they must be prepared.

As the chain expands at breakneck speed, I fear for its future.  So what started off as a note turned into more of a letter.  Just because I know some of you will be curious, I have appended the text of the letter at the end of this post.

Because this post isn’t really about my bad experience.  It is really about the restaurant’s reaction.

First, I sent a picture of some mangled fries to the company’s Twitter feed.  Then, I submitted my note on the company’s website.  I hit send at 9:40 pm on a Wednesday.  At 9:45 pm the phone rings.  I joke to Mrs. Fussy that it’s probably Five Guys calling me up.

Well, it was.

And I had it wrong.  It wasn’t the regional manager, it was the director of operations, a fellow by the name of Bill Rabbitt, who would seem to be the hardest-working man in quick service restaurants.

I have no idea how they pulled off this impressive trick.  Presumably it has something to do with the internets and Blackberries.

Mr. Rabbitt was very apologetic on the phone, thanked me for my input, and wanted to find a way to get me to go back to their restaurants.  To be clear, I never threatened to leave the fold.  But I was so surprised to be hearing from him directly, that I didn’t ask for what I really wanted – an update as to when the problems I reported in Schenectady were resolved.

Instead, he sent me a letter that is good for three burgers, three large fries and three drinks the next time I go to one of the six restaurants within his region.

Well, I can’t eat all those burgers and fries.  So who wants to come along?

If you are interested, submit a comment as to why you want to eat burgers with the Profussor, and I’ll find some way of coming up with two winners.  Maybe Mrs. Fussy will get to pick.  We will make every attempt to come up with a burger time that works for both winners.  But no guarantees.

And for those of you who want to read what I wrote to Five Guys that resulted in such largesse on their part, here you go.  The following is unedited, and appears exactly as I entered it in the comment field of the Five Guys website:

I love 5 Guys, and have written very positively about the chain on my blog.  Until today, I thought you would be able to bury In-N-Out burger should there ever be a western expansion.

This was my first visit to the Schenectady store.  I should have known immediately that this location was not up to par, because the dining room smelled strongly of bathroom tablets.  It was very unappetizing.  But I had promised the kid we would eat here.

We ordered.  And we waited.  And we waited.  It was not busy.  There was only one order ahead of ours.  But orders behind ours kept on being filled.  And we waited.

So I checked on our food, and it was not there.  The staff gave our food to some other customer, but did not take responsibility for doing so.  The staffer insisted that someone had “taken” our food by mistake.

In my past experience with the restaurant, food is not there for the taking.  Bags are given to customers who are holding the correctly numbered ticket.

They remake our order.  So obviously we have to wait more.  It was a school night, and the kid was already tired and hungry.  When the fries came out, they were not up to the usual standards.

It appears as if their fry cutting machine is broken, because there was a high proportion of steak fries (double the width of regular fries).

Ultimately they were apologetic and delivered a $5 gift card to the table.  It was a nice gesture.

But this experience was very upsetting for me.  Ultimately what keeps In-N-Out burger on top is its tight control of all its stores.  Your food is better.

Do not let lagging stores slip through the cracks and tarnish your sterling brand.  This experience was completely unacceptable.  If this is how the restaurant performs when things are slow, I shudder to think what its like when it’s busy.

On the matter of food quality, has the restaurant changed its rolls in the past year?  The ones today seemed a lot breadier and not as rich and dense as I remember.  Or could there be variation in those from store to store?

Honestly, no store in Schenectady would be better than this store.  At least as it was tonight.
I really thought you should know.


16 Comments leave one →
  1. November 16, 2009 11:31 am

    my boyfriend and i love that place! we reccommend it to everyone we know!

    please pick us :D

  2. Mr. Sunshine permalink
    November 16, 2009 1:02 pm

    I like 5 Guys. But it will never be great because one cannot select doneness–all are served medium well. That is not the case with Juicy Burgers, which are good enough for the gods. There you can select Brown, Pink, or Red center! They rule.

  3. November 16, 2009 2:09 pm

    That’s some timely, impressive response to a complaint!

    I’m a regular Five Guys eater–I love the place. By Schenectady, I assume you’re talking about the Mohawk Commons location; that’s the location I frequent most often (followed by Delmar, Troy, and, once, Clifton Park). Overall, I’ve found the Mohawk Commons consistency to be on par with the others (Troy is my least favorite, because they’re merely efficient, rather than friendly and efficient).

    One issue with Mohawk Commons is that, with exception of, perhaps, Clifton Park, it is the smallest location with the bathroom closer to the dining area. Also, several tables are close to the counter, which isn’t very pleasant during busy periods (if you’re stuck eating at said tables) because of the line.

    The one time Five Guys (at Mohawk Commons) messed up my girlfriends order, they apologized profusely and refunded her money. So, her entire meal was free. That’s some good customer service. I’m surprised you met with indifferent response at the local store. Definitely seems uncharacteristic of what I’ve experienced at that (and all) Five Guys locations.

  4. Sarah M. permalink
    November 16, 2009 2:25 pm

    I should think that the reasons I’d want to eat 5 Guys with DB would be obvious to anyone reading the blog. However, the reasons I should are twofold: firstly, I was the commenter who proposed you as the Capital Region Dreamboat (no offense, Mrs. Fussy; I’m spoken for as well), and additionally, I have been doing dramatic readings of your Yelp reviews for friends and family since January. Perhaps I’m showing my hand here, but I can’t not try for this one.

    • November 17, 2009 9:31 am

      Can I just say I love Sarah M.? Dramatic readings of your Yelp reviews sound like something I need to see!

  5. November 16, 2009 3:21 pm

    I suspect that your opening sentence may have greased the PR wheels into urgent action. Bloggers hold a lot of power in consumer-land. Of course – we do have to share it and there are quite a few of us :-) I like Five Guys burgers, could bring a transatlantic flavour to the event – but I’m sure you’ll get plenty of volunteers!

    • November 16, 2009 6:59 pm

      The Profussor said he commented via Twitter and a post on the company’s website. Not through his blog. Still, 5 minutes response time is pretty impressive. Do I get the free burger now

      • November 16, 2009 10:51 pm

        I won’t fight you for your burger – but I was referring to the first sentence of his ‘letter’ in which he referred to himself as a blogger who had had nice things to say in the past. I still call blog-power on this one :-)

      • November 17, 2009 11:40 am

        You got me. The burger is yours. (Except I think I already forfeited, see below.)

        It’s probably a best practice when critiquing a restaurant in a public venue to salt your comments with references to “my blog”, “my syndicated column”, “my radio show” etc. if you want to bring home the bacon. Note to self, do this more.

  6. November 16, 2009 3:25 pm

    Love the post-title by the way!

  7. November 16, 2009 7:06 pm

    In-N-Out will eat 5 Guys’ lunch. Just as long as they are careful to follow my best practice of extra onions, mustard-instead-of-sauce and pickles.

    Oops, I just lost my free burger, didn’t I?

  8. November 16, 2009 9:55 pm

    Sarah M-

    As a fellow Capital Region blogger with the initials DB, I have to propose a cage fight death match between me and the Fussy DB to truly decide who is, in fact, the Capital Region Dreamboat. I would post a picture of myself, but I fear riots among the female population of Upstate New York whence they witness my unending charms.

    • Sarah M. permalink
      November 16, 2009 10:54 pm

      DB2, what sort of blog-relevant death match would you suggest? Competitive eating? I think your respective blogs prove that sort of challenge to be a bit stacked in your favor.

  9. Ryan permalink
    November 18, 2009 5:53 pm

    I worked at 5 Guys for a couple of months and it was a much better experience than I expected to get from a fast food restaurant. It seems like the Schenectady location needs to get it’s act together. The location I worked at (E. Greenbush) never had any of these problems. It’s probably just one or two employees slacking on the job and not seeing that customers come first.

    The best thing about the chain is nothing is frozen! Let’s hope they keep it that way.

  10. pjt permalink
    November 19, 2009 8:48 am

    Don’t know about 5 Guys putting a smack down on In-N-Out. I’ve got family in Calif & we always visit In-N-Out when we’re out there. I & N has very, very good burgers and I’d say their fries are superior to 5 G’s.

  11. D0N permalink
    December 26, 2010 9:12 pm

    My BF and I went to the 5 guys place in Delmar about 6 months ago. The food was OK, I wasn’t impressed really. In my opinion, Wendys is far superior.

    The worst part of our trip was about 6 hours later when I found myself awake, running for the bathroom, sitting on the toilet with the worst cramps I’ve ever experienced in my life. I felt like curling up on the floor and just crying because it hurt so bad.

    After what seemed like an eternity, the cramps went away and then the diarrhea came. I was in and out of my bed and running to the bathroom 6 times that night.

    I don’t know what the heck they fed me at 5 guys that night (maybe it was the peanut oil they fry everything in?), but I sure as heck won’t ever – ever – ever eat at another one of their restaurants.

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