How I Built This: Five Guys: Jerry Murrell
|David Senra||Feb 1, 2019|
I was a terrible student. I didn’t like school: The nuns told me if I didn’t work hard I’d end up selling hamburgers.
I was motivated to succeed when my wife left and took the kids: I didn’t know what to do with my life. One thing I was sure of is I’m going to get my kids back. I just didn’t know how yet.
I did a bunch of dumb things: I tried a few bad businesses. I tried starting an oil business. I tried a bottle water business. Then I started a real estate business. I was an expert at buying high and selling low. I really didn’t know what I was doing.
I was inspired by a tiny hamburger place where I grew up: It was owned by a guy named Push Em Up Tony. It was tiny. He only sold hamburgers. But people came from all over the city to buy them. I thought if I open up a hamburger place and keep it simple it might work. That’s where the idea came from.
One way to know if your product is good: We did it a little different. We wanted to find a place where the rent is real low. A place that is out of the way. If the place is hard to find and people still come we know we got something.
How did you come up with the name? At the time I had 4 sons. So it was my 4 sons and me. Five guys.
I didn’t know much: But I knew how to cook a potato and I knew how to cook a hamburger. That’s all we knew [and needed to know]. We were making money from our very first day.
Another great idea: We let the kids pick the toppings. We wouldn’t tell them how much we were paying for the product. We said pick whatever pickles you want. They’d try a bunch of different brands and we’d wind up with the most expensive pickles. [This method was also applied to buns, cooking oil etc] Why did we do this? So the kids would pick the ingredients they thought were best [regardless of price]. If they picked the best product then that would be best for the customer.
How did you get your first customers? It was all word of mouth. The only way people could find us would be by somebody else was telling them about it.
I knew the business was risky but I thought it was fun: I told my kids you don’t have to be in this business. But if you want to be pick something you like to do. Something that you find fun.
I was dead set against franchising: My kids wanted to. They bought me a book called Franchising for Dummies. It was written by the founder of Wendy’s. I changed my mind. We sold 3500 franchises in the first two years.
The Murrell Family still owns 75% of the company: They started it with $35,000. Five Guys made $57 million in net income in 2016.
My mom gave me good advice when I was a kid: If you could cook a good hamburger, serve a good drink, or give a good haircut you’ll always have an income. [In other words: Be Useful!]