Who Are the Guys Behind Five Guys?

You know them for their delicious, no-frills approach to burgers, fries, and hot dogs, but it seems well past time you actually knew them by name!

LOS ANGELES, CA/USA - OCTOBER 13, 2014: Five Guys Burgers and Fries restaurant exterior. Five Guys is a restaurant chain that serves on hamburgers, hot dogs, and French fries.Ken Wolter/Shutterstock

Since it began as a single take-out shop in 1986 Arlington, Virginia, Five Guys Burgers and Fries has grown to massive success. In 2017, it dethroned In-N-Out as America’s favorite burger chain. If you’re one of Five Guys’ many enthusiasts, you may have found yourself wondering if the name was inspired by real people, the way McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and Trader Joe’s were. Does the name indeed refer to a specific “five guys”? Check out more famous food icons you didn’t know were real people.

Well, Five Guys actually started with just one guy, and with the advice his mother gave him as a child. Jerry Murrell, Five Guys’ founder, recalls his mother telling him that he’d end up “flipping burgers” if he didn’t study, according to Inc. But Murrell didn’t see why that was such a bad thing. The small burger restaurant in his small northern Michigan hometown was a huge success, and it was very clear to young Murrell that people loved to eat good burgers.

So by the 1980s, when Murrell had gone to school for economics, grown up, and had two teenage sons telling him they didn’t want to go to college, Murrell told them that that was perfectly OK. He pooled the oldest sons’ college tuition, teamed up with them and their two younger brothers, and helped them open a carry-out burger shop. Find out why Five Guys will never ask how you want your burger cooked.

Murrell and all four of his sons, Jim, Matt, Chad, and Ben, had an active role in running the growing business. So Murrell suggested naming the company Five Guys. The name stuck, even when he and his second and current wife, Janie, had another son. Tyler Murrell, born in 1988, became the new fifth “guy.” “We had Tyler, our youngest son, so I’m out!” Murrell joked to Inc.

Today, the franchise continues to grow, and each of the “five guys” of the younger Murrell generation still plays an important role. Jim and Matt travel throughout the country scouting possible new locations. Chad trains new employees. Ben chooses the franchisees, and the baby of the family, Tyler, oversees the bakeries that produce burger buns. The franchise may have started with just one guy, but its name—and its success—is proof that it truly takes a village. Next, find out how some more of your favorite fast food restaurants got their names.

Meghan Jones
Meghan Jones is a word nerd who has been writing for RD.com since 2017. You can find her byline on pieces about grammar, fun facts, the meanings of various head-scratching words and phrases, and more. Meghan graduated from Marist College with a Bachelor of Arts in English in 2017; her creative nonfiction piece “Anticipation” was published in the Spring 2017 issue of Angles literary magazine.