Up until this week, West Essex residents had to travel about five miles to Parsippany to enjoy a Five Guys Burgers and Fries. Now the winner of the Best Burger category in Zagat's Fast Food Survey has a West Caldwell home.
The Sheridans, father Ed and son Patrick, opened the doors of their latest Five Guys restaurant on Monday and so far they said the response from customers has exceeded expectations.
"We are very happy to be here," Patrick Sheridan told Patch Friday. "It's been a great first four days."
Indeed, by noon Friday, the simple red and white motif restaurant located in the Essex Mall at 895 Bloomfield Ave., was buzzing with diners.
The menu is simple: burgers, hot dogs, and fries, and for non-meat eaters, grilled cheese and veggie sandwiches. Not to be confused with a veggie burger, the latter is a choice of their 15 toppings: mushrooms, peppers, grilled onions, lettuce, tomatoes, etc.
A cheeseburger costs $5.89. Add regular fries for $2.99 and a large drink for $2.29 and you've got a meal for $11 and change.
Five Guys burgers are never frozen—there isn’t even a freezer in the restaurant. Fries are cut fresh on the premises from Idaho potatoes and cooked in peanut oil. Whole peanuts are available for diners to crack open and snack on while they wait for their orders.
An unexpected delight is the Coca-Cola freestyle soda machine, which lets customers mix their own drinks using a touch screen. More than 100 combinations are possible.
The senior Sheridan stands behind the product and recommends everyone looking for a good burger to try it.
"I'm pretty confident you aren't going to be disappointed," Ed said.
Five Guys was founded in Arlington, Va. by Jerry Murrell and his four sons in 1986. The family decided to franchise in 2002, and there are now more than 1,000 Five Guys restaurants in North America.
Marketing consists mostly of word of mouth and media exposure rather than flashy advertising campaigns. There are no slogans, mascots or gimmicks. But according to the website, they prefer to call customers “fans."
Customer service and quality are kept in check with a secret shopper system, according to Ed. Twice a week—once at lunch and once at dinner—a secret customer visits every Five Guys restaurant and reports on the experience.
When a restaurant scores well, employees who were on those shifts receive a cash bonus. This is a huge incentive for the 30 full- and part-time employees working at the West Caldwell location to focus on customers, Patrick said.
The father and son were looking for a franchise opportunity a few years ago and got hooked on Five Guys.
“We explored an awful lot of brands,” Ed said.
The Sheridans own the rights to the Essex County territory and co-own the rights to Bergen County. Their restaurant in Millburn is closest to Ed Sheridan's home in Short Hills, where Patrick was raised.
In addition to Millburn and West Caldwell, they have a location in Lodi and one coming soon in Ramsey. They are looking to introduce another three in Essex County and are open to suggestions.
The Sheridans are no strangers to the restaurant business. Ed's father started Sheridan's Restaurant & Tavern on Lake Iliff in Sussex County more than 30 years ago.
He called Sheridan's a "terrific family restaurant."
Which is just what he hopes Five Guys will be for West Caldwell.