Five Guys is America’s favorite burger chain, according to Harris Poll’s 30th annual EquiTrend study.
For the second year in a row, the fast casual burger chain won Harris’s “burger brand of the year.” In 2017, Five Guys broke In-N-Out’s two-year winning streak as America’s favorite burger spot.
Harris surveyed a total of 77,031 people to determine the “brand equity” of 17 different burger chains — Jack in the Box, Hardee’s, White Castle, Carl’s Jr., Checkers/Rally’s, DQ Grill & Chill, Burger King, McDonald’s, Wendy’s, SONIC America’s Drive-In, Five Guys, In-N-Out Burger, Culver’s, Steak ‘n Shake, Whataburger, Shake Shack, Smashburger.
Brand equity is based on three key variables: familiarity, quality and future consideration.
In the battle to win over customers, it all comes down to ubiquity, according to EquiTrend Director Amir Kanpurwala.
“In-N-Out has slipped from its high. The other players are claiming mind and market share. Five Guys has expanded at a much faster rate. In-N-Out has taken a slower approach to expansion, and its locations are geographically contiguous — mostly on the West Coast,” he said.
Thirty years after Five Guys first opened, there are nearly 1,500 locations globally and another 1,500 in development. Five Guys operates across the U.S. as well as in the UK, Spain, Portugal, France and Germany.
In contrast, In-N-Out operates around 330 locations in six states — California, Texas, Arizona, Nevada, Utah and Oregon. The company has plans to open as many as 50 locations in Colorado over the next several years. While the affordable brand has cultivated a strong, loyal following, most consumers haven’t had a chance to try the food.
“Familiarity holds In-N-Out Burger back in the standings as a majority of consumers “just know the name” of the brand (35%),” according to Kanpurwala.
There is a wide pricing disparity between the two brands. A burger at Five Guys starts at $7 while you can grab one at In-N-Out for $2.10. Kanpurwala noted that pricing does play a factor, but doesn’t translate to less brand power.
“Five Guys is a lot more expensive than In-N-Out, but that doesn’t come through in many of our metrics. Five Guys actually comes ahead of In-N-Out when it comes to future consideration, or whether you would return for more. So that was a very surprising finding.”
Similar to In-N-Out, Shake Shack has a strong reputation in the cities it operates in, but it has “fairly low geographic coverage. The average American consumer can’t eat a Shake Shack whenever he or she wants. Five Guys is winning because it’s scaling so quickly,” said Kanpurwala.
Melody Hahm is a senior writer at Yahoo Finance, covering entrepreneurship, technology and real estate. Follow her on Twitter @melodyhahm.