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Specializing in fresh
Employees at Five Guys prepare burgers at the restaurant’s new location on Pole Line Road East in Twin Falls. The burger chain specializes in making fresh food that’s made on the spot, including fries made from southern Idaho potatoes. (MEAGAN THOMPSON/Times-News)

The owners of Twin Falls’ newest burger chain are banking on the idea that customers will pay a little more to eat fresh, mostly local food.

Five Guys, a franchise that began in Arlington, Va. and now boasts more than 550 locations, will open its newest location on Pole Line Road East near Barnes & Noble today.

The burger chain operates somewhere between fresh and fast food.

“We have to be smart about it in this economy because the quality comes at a bit of price,” said Darryl Neider, co-owner of the Five Guys franchise in Idaho, Utah, Oklahoma and part of California. “But what we have noticed is that people still want to treat themselves and their families to something they can enjoy — and even in this economy they are willing to pay a little more for it.”

The burgers and fries are only about a dollar more than most fast food restaurants. But there is more food for the dollar. An order of fries is easily enough for two people.

So far, people are flocking to the burger joints — even attracting a loyal following of customers who tour all 550 locations posting comments on Web sites like Chowhound.chow.com.

“GQ” magazine even rated the restaurant as one of its top 10 businesses to look out for as the chain adds three to four new locations per week.

“Once they try it, we know they will come back,” said Bill Hawes, co-owner of the Five Guys regional franchise. “That’s what sets us apart from others.”

Hawes pointed out the fryers where employees cooked fries that were washed and sliced by hand only three hours earlier. The potatoes were trucked into the store from Shelley the day before.

Friday’s fries will be sliced from potatoes grown in Twin Falls County. Victor Ajayi, vice-president of operations, said the Twin Falls location is expected to go through about 1,000 pounds of potatoes per day.

The burgers are also made fresh, with employees hand pressing the beef into patties.

“We don’t even own a freezer,” said Neider. “We don’t need it because everything is made the same day.”

Oh, and they don’t have a microwave, either.

What Five Guys does have is a small army of employees who have to make everything from scratch. The restaurant hired 44 employees to help run the Twin Falls location, which it rents from the Magic Valley Mall.

The base rate of pay for employees is $7.50 an hour, but they have the potential to earn much more.

“We send in secret shoppers twice a week, who report back to us on the service, cleanliness and quality,” said Neider. “If they get good reports, then the employees get bonuses — it helps us maintain those three tenants of our business.”

Five Guys also operates restaurants in Boise, Meridian, Pocatello and Idaho Falls.

Joshua Palmer may be reached at jpalmer@magicvalley.com or 208-735-3231.

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