Oh Five Guys, how do I love thee? Not for the burgers, which are usually so tall I have to squish them down and unhinge my jaw before I can take a bite. Nor for the plentiful French Fries, whose place of origin is proudly listed on a chalk board as “Idaho Falls, Idaho” as if, like an oenophile, I could taste the earthy notes present in an Idaho Falls potato in contrast to the hints of blackberry in an Iowa potato. (Note: rant for another day – why does a ‘small’ order of French Fries at Five Guys contain so many wonderfully greazy fries that my family of four, including a grown man and a 10-year-old boy who regularly eats his weight at one sitting, cannot finish it?)
No, the inspiration for waxing eloquent about Five Guys has nothing to do with the quality of the food. It has to do with the quality of the food distribution and labeling at each individual restaurant. For those of you who have not had the pleasure, Five Guys operates on the front end like many casual restaurants. You order at the counter, and are given an order number, which you wait to hear called. When it is called, you go up to the counter and get your food in a brown paper bag.
But here is the brilliant part: stapled to the front of one of your bags is an order receipt, which lists each item ordered separately, and numbers each item. So far so normal, right? But inside the bag is a foil wrapped burger or dog that has – get this – a numbered sticker on it which corresponds to your ordered item. How simple and brilliant is this? So when I am passing out the burgers, I can look on the front and know whose is whose by the corresponding number and not actually touch anyone else’s food.
I’m not one of those freaky germ people. I don’t believe there is much that I can contract from other people touching my food that can’t be cured with penicillin. And most of the people I know are relatively hygienic. Still, I don’t want you lifting the top bun off my sandwich to see if it is the one with or without tomatoes.
This happens a lot. On TV shows about lawyers, we all have offices (even the government employees!) with crystal decanters of thirty year old scotch sitting behind our desks, and go out for steak lunches with a glass of the finest red wines. This could not be further from the truth. Today, for example, my lunch consists of beanie weenies in a disposable container. Leftover beanie weanies that I am hoping are still good. I will drink it with water out of an old QT cup. I will eat and drink this gourmet meal while I work and field phone calls from people who won’t pay my invoices. But I digress.
Often, someone in my office will run out to the local fast food joint or, if we are feeling large, we might order in Chinese. How many other people’s Subway sandwiches have I opened up over the years and had to inspect only to find out that this particular turkey sub is not the one with onions? Even Chinese, which comes in clear containers, isn’t always clear, especially if the meat is fried. Is that pork or chicken under that breading? Won’t know until someone takes a bite.
The point is, the most elegant solutions are the simplest ones. I hope whoever came up with that brilliant system at Five Guys got some kind of industrial design award and makes a ton of money. I also hope he or she isn’t having beanie weanies during a working lunch. I hope he is finding ten other people with whom to share a small order of well-deserved fries who spent their early, formative years in Idaho Falls.