Social media strategies: what Five Guys and Chipotle can teach us
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What Five Guys and Chipotle can teach your business about social media

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The invasion of American food chains in cities around the world is not a new trend. In almost every major world attraction, museum, or transport station, there is a McDonald’s within walking distance. In fact, there is one not 100m from the front door of this London based digital marketing company.


It’s not just McDonald’s, either; KFC, Burger King, Subway and many more have also expanded outside the United States, further flooding the food market.

One reason why McDonald’s and the rest of the large chains of American food have succeeded is their ability to spend massive amounts of money on traditional advertising and promotion. They are able to advertise at every commercial break and on every street corner because of the large amounts of capital they have and the sheer size of these organisations. Such large advertising expenses are not feasible for most companies and it may prove difficult to model expansion after a multinational corporation.

One reason why McDonald’s and the rest of the large chains of American food have succeeded is their ability to spend massive amounts of money on traditional advertising and promotion.

So how is the recent emergence of two new American food chains any different or remotely positive for small businesses? What can small businesses learn from Five Guys or Chipotle? The answer lies in how these companies have achieved their success using a different approach from most of their competition.


With more than 1,000 locations in 47 US states, Canada, and one now in the UK, Five Guys Burgers and Fries has become one of the fastest growing restaurant chains in the world. Though it has experienced incredible growth, Five Guys has nowhere near the advertising span of most other large fast food chains.

Quality differentiates Five Guys from other chains


Five Guys succeeds in a saturated burger market due to their simple menu and quality ingredients. Their menu consists of an à la carte selection of hamburgers, hot dogs, a few sandwiches, and freshly cut fries. All food is cooked to order and the origin of the day’s potatoes is displayed on the wall next to the cashier. They are also one of the first restaurants to use Coke’s Freestyle Machine that offers over 200 options and free refills.

Five Guys’ increase in popularity has been helped in large part by incredibly positive reviews in print and online media. In every Five Guys restaurant, there are quotations, articles, reviews from magazines and national newspapers. Though many blogs and online news websites have also generated positive attention, the real increase in popularity has been due to their ability to advertise on social media.


The Five Guys Facebook page creates engagement


The Facebook page also has a high volume of likes and consistent posts. The page also responds to users’ comments and has many interactive posts and questions for its fans. Much of the advertising for the London location was via the Facebook page, and updates to the progress of the store were constantly posted.


With over 32,000 followers and 6,800 tweets, Five Guys has successfully used Twitter as a means to contact their customers. Five Guys tweets consistently, almost every day, and most of those are in response to users. This interactive account works because it engages followers while conveying the overall message Five Guys strives for. The page is also attractive because it resembles the inside of a store.

Google Plus

Five Guys’ Google Plus is not their strongest social media platform. The page has a little over 850 followers and is not a very engaging website. The posts are mainly advertisement related and there is not much interaction between Five Guys and its followers.

Other Campaigns

One unique campaign Five Guys is currently running is their “Friday Fanatic” campaign.  Every week, users submit a photo of themselves eating at Five Guys using #fiveguysfanatic and each week’s winner will be posted on the wall. The campaign is currently available in the US only, but will likely change so that the campaign extends to British users with the Covent Garden location now open.

Even Obama loves Five Guys


Though more expensive than a traditional fast food burger, people continue to visit Five Guys because they want to eat a better burger. They are able to advertise through happy customers and use the money they save on higher quality ingredients and expansion. It will be interesting to see how the Covent Garden location performs, and how fast they can expand in the UK. Even celebrities and politicians, like US President Obama (pictured), have advertised their love for Five Guys.


Chipotle serves an Americanised Mexican menu that includes tacos, burritos, salads, burrito bowls, and chips and salsa (or guacamole). The popularity of Mexican fast food restaurants in the United States has steadily increased, and Chipotle has seen a boom in its recent growth with locations in 41 US states, Canada, Paris, and now six in London.

What makes Chipotle different from most fast food chains is their naturally sourced ingredients. All pork, chicken, and beef served are naturally raised and dairy cows eat an all vegetarian diet. Unlike many food chains who attempt to cover up the sources of their food, Chipotle advertises where their food comes from on the menu.

What makes Chipotle different from most fast food chains is their naturally sourced ingredients.

Like Five Guys, Chipotle also has an extremely limited traditional advertising campaign. Most of the customers who come to chipotle are through word of mouth or via social media. It is possible for Chipotle to do this because of the transparency of the company and the quality of the food it serves.


The Facebook page has over 2 million likes, and constantly uploads videos, promotions and other interactive posts. Chipotle also uses their page to promote naturally sourced food and renewable products. Chipotle’s brand power makes their mission more visible, and attracts positive attention to their restaurants.


Similar to Five Guys, Chipotle also utilises their Twitter account to promote their product and engage followers. Chipotle however, has over 207,000 followers and more than 164,000 tweets. With such a large following, it is amazing how often they respond to peoples’ tweets and avoid over advertising their stores or products.

Chipotle’s Twitter following is strong.


Google Plus

Like Chipotle’s other social media platforms, its Google Plus page has a very strong following of over 92,000. The posts consist of a wide range of videos and links about sustainable campaigns across the world. There are also many posts advertising their 20th Anniversary Adventurrito promotion that will give a lucky customer the ability to win free burritos for 20 years.

Other Campaigns

Chipotle’s corporate mission is to promote naturally-raised and additive-free food. One of the methods they used to publicise their objective was a two minute commercial named “Back to the Start.” The commercial shows a small farmer who changes his free range farm for an industrial plant, but returns back to his open farm after being disappointed with the change.

“Back to the Start” does not advertise Chipotle until the very end, where it states its aim to “Cultivate a Better World.” The commercial was named the best television campaign in the world at the Cannes Lions in 2012 and now has over 7.4 million hits on YouTube. Chipotle’s creative approach to advertise the entire company’s goal rather than a single product has brought them more positive attention than any regular advertisement could have ever achieved.

Chipotle has become an archetype for companies to follow, demonstrating how a superior product and strong devotion towards social responsibility can increase business and expansion. They have also exhibited how a customer’s value goes beyond the money gained from a sale.


Like most businesses, Five Guys and Chipotle started off small and grew to become very successful companies. How they achieved their success through customers and digital media may become the new model of 21st century businesses.

Emphasise your product

The best way to compete is to emphasise the quality of your product and develop a mission around it. Customers appreciate and continue to buy products they enjoy. The big companies have an edge when it comes to being able to compete on prices, but no amount of money guarantees a great product. This can be done through social but also having a fantastic website.

Chipotle has become an archetype for companies to follow, demonstrating how a superior product and strong devotion towards social responsibility can increase business and expansion.

A happy customer is your best advertiser

The consumer has more power than ever before due to their ability to communicate quickly and easily to thousands of people. When the customer is pleased, they will tell friends and colleagues about their experience and attract more people to the store. However, an unhappy customer can have just as large an effect, but instead drive business away.

A strong social media following is not just a high number of likes or followers

Interactive pages are more successful because the followers enjoy the content. When users reply and like posts on the page, their activity on the page shows up on their friends’ Newsfeeds, creating even more exposure. Users also enjoy being responded to, and both Chipotle and Five Guys consistently reply to and like users’ posts and comments.

Matthew Sullivan studies Economics and Spanish at the University of Florida and has spent this summer studying and interning with our social media marketing London team. He enjoys travelling and interacting with people from different cultures and hopes to live outside the US sometime in the future.

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