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The Haunting History Of Abandoned Five Guys Locations

Five Guys restaurant exterior
Five Guys restaurant exterior - Nateslate/Getty Images

People are fascinated by empty spaces. Whether it's the left-behind ruins of an old amusement park, a small town flooded to make way for a lake, or an abandoned retail space sitting empty in a mall, something about it sparks our curiosity. The intrigue of empty spaces has created a subculture dedicated to exploring abandoned areas. For example, users of the subreddit r/AbandonedRetail, post pics of abandoned malls, big box stores, restaurants, and retail spaces.

YouTube is another popular spot to post videos of abandoned spots. If you search "abandoned places" on YouTube you will find a seemingly unending stream of videos from abandoned amusement parks to mansions, to malls, to schools. This Burger King restaurant from the 1980s was hidden inside a mall for 13 years, frozen in time. Though the mall was renovated around it, the Burger King remained the same as the day it closed.

Some companies are more likely to be found empty than others. When Walmart closed over 20 stores in 2023, the retail giant left behind many empty spaces, with some still searching for new tenants to take over. In another example, Subway has closed over 6,500 locations since 2016. Sometimes, the stores are quickly replaced, while other times, they sit abandoned for months or even years. However, if you're on the hunt for an abandoned Five Guys burger joint, you may have a hard time finding one, and the reasons why are fascinating to dive into.

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Read more: Fast Food Hamburgers Ranked Worst To Best

Why It's Rare To Find An Abandoned Five Guys Location

man eating Five Guys burger
man eating Five Guys burger - fiveguys / Instagram

One reason why it's uncommon to find an empty Five Guys restaurant is that the company has experienced many years of growth and isn't known to shut down a location very often. Five Guys can be found in every U.S. state except Alaska, and it also has franchises in Australia, Europe, Hong Kong, and the Middle East. Founded by the Murrell family in Arlington, Virginia in 1986, the company began offering franchise opportunities in 2002 in Virginia and Maryland. The new stores were such a success, that the family expanded franchising opportunities across the country in 2003.

Today, Five Guys dominates the burger industry and is one of the highest-grossing restaurant chains in the United States. According to the S&P Global Ratings, Five Guys had $3.2 billion in sales in the last year. In the past 17 years, there was only one negative year of sales growth, and that was in 2020, a time when almost every business was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. This could be why, when an urban explorer finds an abandoned Five Guys, it's considered such a rare find, and one worth talking about.

False Rumors Hit X That All Five Guys Were Closing

hand holding phone with clickbait marketing
hand holding phone with clickbait marketing - maicasaa/Shutterstock

Despite Five Guys success, the company was once the subject of a clickbait ad campaign claiming the burger chain was "closing doors in 2024." Clickbait ads on social media sites lured readers to click through a 68-slide article about restaurant chains that were bankrupt and closing for good in 2024. Although the image of a closed Five Guys was on the ad, the article never mentioned Five Guys by name. This didn't stop rumors from hitting X, formerly known as Twitter, that the popular burger joint would soon be closing all of its stores.

Debunked by Snopes, a fact-checking website, the claims were found to be untrue. One theory as to how the story took hold on social media was that there were a small number of Five Guys locations closing during the pandemic. Snopes explains how these types of clickbait articles lure readers to click on lengthy articles to generate money with online ads. Five Guys is not the only victim of recent clickbait ad campaigns. Both Olive Garden and Cracker Barrel have seen similar false rumors that they are bankrupt or will be going out of business shortly.

A Look Inside A Few Abandoned Five Guys Restaurants

Abandoned Five Guys exterior
Abandoned Five Guys exterior - Andy's Retail Exploration / YouTube

A Five Guys store in Longview, Washington, closed its doors permanently in 2022 after nearly 10 years in the location. The YouTube channel Andy's Retail Exploration found the abandoned space and uploaded a video, in which you can that the former Five Guys sat next to a Little Caesars Pizza in a strip mall. A realtor sign hangs in the window, while a look inside the front windows shows an empty building with a countertop and kitchen area. Although the YouTuber tells us the space is in a busy area, the former Five Guys still sits abandoned today and is listed as "off-market" by Redfin.

Another video of an abandoned Five Guys -- this one in Trussville, Alabama -- was uploaded by the YouTube channel, Zee Mann. Although Trussville currently has a Five Guys location elsewhere, this particular space (located at 5084 Pinnacle Square) remains empty and is available for lease.

On TikTok, you can find videos of abandoned Five Guys restaurants in Webster, New York, and West Hollywood, California. However, according to comments, the Five Guys in Webster simply moved locations a short distance away. Meanwhile, it was reported that the West Hollywood location was a victim of the pandemic and its lease had run out.

Why Do Some Retail Spaces Sit Empty, Even In Busy Areas?

empty strip mall
empty strip mall - Konstantin L/Shutterstock

Sometimes a busy strip mall or bustling area can be home to an abandoned retail space that surprisingly doesn't get leased out again quickly. Retail stores and restaurants can sit empty for years despite residing in busy locations. This seems counterintuitive to making money, with some landlords apparently content to let their retail space sit empty with no tenant. The reality, however, is a bit more complicated.

According to Business Insider, even if a landlord wanted to lower rents in their retail space to bring in new tenants, the banks that finance the buildings may not allow them to do so. Lowering rent means devaluing the building's worth, something banks may not be willing to do. Furthermore, in some instances, even though it's an empty space, someone is still paying rent for the unit, giving the owner little incentive to find a new occupant. And finally, commercial real estate leases tend to be long-term, usually around ten years, meaning it's worth it for the landlord to wait it out until they find the right tenant willing to pay a higher rent. Some cities, like San Francisco, are trying to reverse this trend by creating a vacancy tax, providing an incentive to fill empty retail locations.

Why Might A Five Guys Location Fail?

two men eating at Five Guys
two men eating at Five Guys - fiveguys / Instagram

When a Five Guys location closes, the company doesn't typically explain the reasons why. Although local news agencies reach out to Five Guys to comment on a local closing, the company generally does not respond.

We may not know why a particular Five Guys restaurant shuts its doors, but we can look at why a quick-service burger joint may fail in general. For one thing, Americans are eating less beef than ever before (per The New York Times), with many switching to a plant-based or vegetarian diet. There are a variety of reasons why people may avoid eating red meat including religion, health, the environment, concerns over animal welfare, and the increasing availability of faux meat products.

A restaurant's failure may be due to its location, or it may be that some consumers are spending less money eating out due to increased menu prices. Some businesses were unable to weather the economic downturn during the pandemic and have been forced to close down as a result.

Is Five Guys Too Expensive For Millennials?

close up of paying with credit card
close up of paying with credit card - Asiavision/Getty Images

Five Guys offers high-quality ingredients with a consistency that diners can trust. However, these high-quality ingredients come at a high price. The cost of a Five Guys burger is well above its fast-casual competitors. A Five Guys hamburger in Los Angeles today will cost you $9.49. However, head to In-N-Out, and you can get a hamburger combo with fries and a drink for about $2 less.

Millennials are the largest U.S. demographic and a demographic that is highly prized by companies. However, many millennials feel that Five Guys is too expensive for a fast-casual burger joint, and they're a generation that is becoming increasingly concerned about their health. A social media post from Wall Street Silver went viral on X when they posted a receipt from Five Guys. The receipt revealed a bacon cheeseburger with fries and a soft drink cost a whopping $20.57. Add in tip and tax, and this meal for one nearly reached $25. At the time of writing, the post has over 13,000 comments, with many complaining of the high prices. One commenter, Pabbloh Tondo, stated on Five Guy's Facebook page, "I'll just buy a space flight and save some money thanks."

Five Guys Has Seen A Few Scandals Over The Years

close up of judge with gavel
close up of judge with gavel - Chris Ryan/Getty Images

Despite the overall success of Five Guys, the company has had its share of scandals, some of which could have affected local franchises. For one, a slew of store managers have been accused of sexual harassment and theft. In 2022, Five Guys store manager Darnell Penn was sentenced for crimes committed in 2019 against two female employees. In 2016, a Five Guys general manager and restaurant manager in West Virginia were sued by two employees for a hostile work environment. According to the lawsuit, the restaurant manager made unwanted sexual advances. Allegedly, the general manager knew of the behavior but took no action.

As for theft, one of the largest cases involved former Five Guys manager Darcy Lyons, who stole $122,000 from her Syracuse store. She did this by swiping the nightly store deposits for about a year before getting caught. Five Guys has also been accused of discrimination and harassment and were sued by former employee, Jordan Botelho. Botelho was allegedly harassed and then fired from the Ocala, Florida store for his medical condition.

Finally, in 2018, Five Guys was sued by Lucia Marett in a class-action lawsuit claiming its website was not accessible to blind users and therefore, did not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. While they're not the only establishment to get into hot water, it does seem that Five Guys have been plagued by scandals in recent years.

Five Guys Sees Success Despite Other Fast-Food Restaurants Failing

close up of Five Guys burger
close up of Five Guys burger - fiveguys / Instagram

Despite accusations of high prices and the scandals that have rocked the company, Five Guys continues to see success built on its values of quality food and good customer service. It's this overall success that makes finding an abandoned Five Guys location such a rarity. Although the dining industry has suffered losses in the past few years due to the pandemic, Five Guys has held strong. Other take-out restaurants have not been so fortunate. For example, Restaurant Business reported that Subway, Papa Murphy's, Baskin Robbins, and Burger King closed the most restaurants in 2022.

According to QSR Magazine, Five Guys was in the top 50 for leaders in fast food in 2023. The report states that Five Guys grew by 19 locations from 2021 to 2022. Even more impressive, QSR Magazine also reported that from 2020 to 2021 (during the pandemic) Five Guys managed to add 14 new locations, at a time when many other restaurants were closing down or scaling back.

As for high prices, Five Guys director of operations-APAC, Iain Ross-Mackenzie explained that Five Guys never uses frozen ingredients, only fresh. "People come to Five Guys for a simple, great American burger. And that's what they will get here," Ross-Mackenzie told The Rakyat Post.

Is It Worth It To Franchise A Five Guys?

Five Guys restaurant exterior
Five Guys restaurant exterior - Ablokhin/Getty Images

Another reason you won't find many abandoned Five Guys restaurants is simply that the stores don't often fail. This is because the company is selective about approving franchise applications, and Five Guys requires an initial investment from $306,200 to $641,250. It may seem like a large investment, however, it's less than other fast food franchises, such as Burger King and Wendy's.

In addition to the initial investment, there are other requirements owners must meet. They are required to have a minimum net worth of $1.5 million and liquid assets of $500,000 for each store. Five Guys is also committed to a consistent experience in all of its franchises and works closely with store owners in site selection, training, marketing, ingredient sourcing, and food preparation.

Due to these strict requirements, many franchise owners are not individual mom-and-pop owners, but large businesses in charge of multiple units. For example, Dallas-based Encore Restaurants owns 109 units across the nation, and Hyde Park Burgers owns 56 stores around the country.

Does A Five Guys Restaurant Space Sit Empty After Five Guys Abandons It?

outside of a Five Guys with palm trees
outside of a Five Guys with palm trees - fiveguys / Instagram

What happens to an abandoned Five Guys restaurant space when the burger joint moves out? Some stores remain empty waiting for a new lease, but many seem to quickly find new tenants. As mentioned previously, the former Five Guys in Longview, Washington, and Trussville, Alabama, still sit empty today. However, many former Five Guys stores are currently occupied by other restaurants.

A former Five Guys located in Webster, New York, is now a Mexican restaurant. A store that closed in 2020 in East Lyme, Connecticut, is today a ramen restaurant named Daddy's Noodle Bar, while a former Five Guys in Huntington, Virginia, is now a pizza joint. Perhaps due to Five Guys requirements to start a franchise in an ideal and busy location, these empty stores don't sit empty for long in many cases.

Read the original article on Mashed