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Survival of the fittest: Five Guys poised to test Buffalo burger market

Photo from Flickr.com's JKbrooks85 of Nevada Five Guys

blog by Ben Tsujimoto  • 

If you’re a chain burger joint, Buffalo isn’t the best city to test the waters.  Just ask Fuddruckers, the Houston-based hamburger chain that abandoned its Amherst location in January 2011 and its Cheektowaga (Galleria) restaurant two months later. 

After three and a half successful years selling burgers in Rochester from four locations, Five Guys Burgers and Fries will make its long-awaited Buffalo area debut in late July or early August 2011.  The Virginia-based burger phenomenon will move into the northwest corner of the Maple Road and Transit Road intersection near Lowe’s, Starbucks and Panera, officially 8248 Transit Road.

Co-owner Steve Christensen will submit his plans to the town of Amherst later this week, the final move after an extended search.  Two more locations will open in the 716 before the end of the calendar year.  Where?  No one knows. 

“We started studying the [Buffalo] area over a year ago,” Christensen said in a phone interview.  “We’ve waited patiently to find a hot-spot, and there were three or four locations we nearly signed leases on.” 

Instead of a deterrent, Christensen found the Buffalo area’s dearth of hamburger joints as an opportunity.  Aside from Bill Gray’s, which maintains two locations (Clarence and Boulevard) and Red Robin (Amherst, Orchard Park), there’s no threatening competitor, as adversary In-N-Out has yet to establish a presence on the East Coast.  Add in Amherst’s strong population density, and the new location was a fit.

Without much effort, Five Guys has created quite the stir through its Facebook page.  Since April 18, when Christensen started the page, nearly 400 people have “liked” it, and several WNYers are vouching for their area as the next Five Guys location.  Southtowns?  Elmwood? 

When asked how he’d think Buffalo and its suburbs would respond to the arrival of another chain, Christensen was realistic.  “I know there’s the feeling that, when a chain moves in, smaller restaurants lose business,” he said.  “Still, I think we’ll win people over with our quality, consistency and customer service.  ”

The bad reputation that chains receive is largely due to lackluster service and second-rate products.  Five Guys will continue the policy of no freezers and no microwaves in the store, ensuring that the burgers will be hot and fresh.  Christensen spoke volumes about the fresh jalapenos and portobello mushrooms that Five Guys would offer, and frankly, we’re down with that.

We’ll have more information, and hopefully video, as the restaurant opening draws closer.  Until then, though, keep visualizing the two thick patties oozing with flavor and all eight of those free toppings!

TAGGED: five guys, five guys buffalo, food, hamburgers buffalo, new restaurant buffalo

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