For years, I have been seeking out In-N-Out burgers anytime I can. As the rumor goes, every location of In-N-Out has a pair of palm trees planted out front, and since I’ve never lived in a palm-tree laden environment, I’ve never lived close to one. Every visit to California or the West Coast is guaranteed to include a visit to an In-N-Out. So imagine my surprise when Five Guys won America’s Top Burger Chain!
The iconic In-N-Out just lost its crown as America’s top burger chain. For the last two years, the famous West Coast chain has been the reigning champion of the burger category of Harris Poll’s annual EquiTrend Study. While they did maintain the number 2 spot, Five Guys ousted them for the top spot.
The poll asks people to rate different brands on a few criteria, including quality, familiarity, and how likely they are to purchase the brand.
In the burger category, small regional players don’t stand a chance against more recognizable large-scale players. In the case of Five Guys, their recent expansions have put them on top of the burger game, giving them brand recognition on a national level.
Do you remember former President Barack Obama’s 2009 stop at a Five Guys location in Washington DC while taping a segment with NBC Nightly News? This type of national exposure could be part of the reason their familiarity raised on this poll from 48 percent in 2013 to 68 percent today.
While the normal players still top the charts for familiarity (including McDonald’s, Culver’s, Shake Shack, and Wendy’s), Five Guys’ never-frozen burgers have helped them rise to the top of the burger quality and likeliness to purchase ranks.
Five Guys opened in 1986 in Arlington, Virginia, where they become known to locals for a grilled-to-order hamburger with limitless toppings (although you do have to pay more if you want a bacon cheeseburger). They become well known for their fries, cooked in heart-healthy peanut oil.
The open kitchen makes customers feel like they can trust how their food is being prepared, and the red-and-white checkered decorated dining room makes it feel like an old-school diner.
Five Guys strives to be the classic, no-frills, honest burger joint that Americans are missing from the good old days. With their recent expansions, they now have more than 1,500 locations worldwide. In addition to hamburgers, they also serve hot dogs, grilled cheese, and a BLT sandwich.
So, you already know about my bias towards In-N-Out, but do you agree with the poll? Who do you think earns the spot as America’s top burger chain? We’re partial to Whataburger.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on May 15, 2017.