Duo brings Five Guys restaurants to northern Indiana
A simple menu of American favorites, a casual dining atmosphere in a busy but easily accessible location, free peanuts and toppings, and a friendly staff—it’s a winning business model that appealed to two young men from Chicago who were roommates at the University of Notre Dame.
Now the duo of Donald Doan and Chris Wolf is experiencing that success in Five Guys, a burger and fries restaurant franchise started in 1986 by a father and his four sons in Arlington, Va.
“Five Guys is the fastest growing franchise in the U.S. with over 700 stores open all over the country,” Doan said.
The Doan/Wolf partnership has three of those restaurants: in University Mall in Mishawaka, across from Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend and the new Five Guys that opened in June at 1575 U.S. 41 near Walmart.
And there are more Five Guys restaurants in northern Indiana’s future. The partners have a franchise contract to start up to 16 of the restaurants in Lake, Porter, LaPorte, St. Joseph and Elkhart counties, Doan said.
Doan and Wolf are negotiating with Boyer Development to open a Five Guys in the new Munster Shops retail development along Calumet Avenue.
“The average Five Guys has $1.1 million in sales annually. We’re well above that average,” Doan said.
Neither partner had any experience in food service, and Doan said he researched various business ventures before a friend’s success opening a Five Guys restaurant in New York City inspired him to take the leap.
“My partner and I are pretty young—late 20s, early 30s—and we have been very successful,” Doan said.
“We attempted to get financing but ended up using our own money. That way we have minimal debt,” he said.
Their business model is focused on people, Doan said—good customer service and on mentoring employees “to mature and take on more responsibility.”
“This is a company that develops young talent,” Doan said. “They are the key to our success.”
That emphasis on customer service begins during the interview process, he said. “You can’t motivate or inspire someone who doesn’t want to be, so we stress hiring people with the right talents. It is critical we do a good job screening candidates.”
Doan said although most restaurants experience a 300 percent turnover rate annually, the three Five Guys employ more than 80, many of whom have been with the business one or two years.
In addition, Doan said he works alongside the employees.
“New employees are always amazed when they see me cleaning toilets or taking out the garbage,” he said. “I want them to know I’ll do anything or we’ll do it together.”
The poor economy actually has helped the business, Doan said.
“In this economy, people want comfort food, which we have with our burgers and fries. There’s also a lot of prime real estate that’s vacant and we’re able to pick up a great location and negotiate great real estate deals,” he said.
A restaurant’s price point is crucial to success in any economy, Doan said. “People either trade up to us in a good economy or trade down in a bad economy. We offer a nice medium,” he said.