Launch Lessons from Five Guys Burgers

A new Five Guys burger restaurant just opened in our town, which I had been eagerly anticipating. I used to eat at the original restaurant in Arlington, VA, back in the early 90s. When I stopped in to the Salisbury shop for the first time they had been open for about four days.

I got my order and sat down at a table next to a guy who was wearing a Five Guys t-shirt but without the demeanor of someone who flips burgers. As I unwrapped my burger I noticed it had all the wrong toppings on it. It must have shown on my face because suddenly I hear from the next table, “Not what you wanted?”

I said it wasn’t, he confirmed my original order and then headed back to the kitchen. A few minutes later he was back with a new burger, another round of fries, and offered his apology.

Great customer service, no? I asked if he were the owner of the store and he said he was. He was doing something very smart for a business leader: he was sitting in his store during peak operations in the first week, watching how it went. Taking care of my individual burger was nice but the real important thing for him as the owner was that he had evidence of a broken process, poor training, or a simple one-off error. It was data he could act on, discovered during the shakedown cruise of his restaurant.

The first cruise of a new ship is often called a shakedown because components that will fail early usually do so during that first cruise. They identify those problems, fix them, and then have confidence that the rest of the ship ought to hold up for the normal lifetime of those components.

Same principle applies to launching a new restaurant, a new product or a new service. Pay a lot of attention during the shakedown run. Stay close to the action and see what isn’t working as planned. Being close lets you catch these items quickly and do something about it.

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2 thoughts on “Launch Lessons from Five Guys Burgers

  1. And even though they got your order wrong and you had to wait an extra 5 minutes, you’ll be back. Because of what they did *after* messing up.

  2. Of course!

    For one of the fastest growing franchises in the country right now, they remain remarkably consistent in service and quality. I was genuinely shocked the toppings were incorrect since I’ve never had a wrong order with other FGs around the East Coast.

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