If you want a burger and you have a peanut allergy, Five Guys Burger and Fries won’t do anything to protect you. They fry everything in peanut oil, there are bins of peanuts stacked everywhere, and they leave peanut shells all over the floor. If a person with a peanut allergy goes into Five Guys, they might be risking their life.

Let’s put this into perspective. If you need to fly and you have a peanut allergy, most airlines will try to protect you. They won’t give out peanuts on your flight. They’ll also make an announcement to request that people don’t consume any peanut products on the plane.

As for the Five Guys peanuts policy, it leads to a lot of questions and complaints. Here is how Five Guys responds on their website:

“If so many people are allergic to peanuts, why does Five Guys continue to offer them? Over the last 20 years, peanuts have become part of the Five Guys identity. We by no means want to exclude guests from our store, but at the same time we would not want to disappoint our peanut-eating guests. We make sure that we have signage on our doors and in our restaurants about the fact that we serve peanuts in bulk containers as we would never want someone to risk their health by coming into our restaurants.”

In Pink Goldfish 2.0, David Rendall and I share Five Guys as a case study in our Antagonizing chapter. We’re not sure if it’s possible to be more antagonizing than this. It is one thing for a product or service to make potential customers unhappy. It is another thing for a product or service to physically harm or kill potential customers.

Here’s the interesting thing…Five Guys isn’t even selling peanuts.

They give them away. It costs them millions of dollars a year to provide peanuts for free to every customer, but they won’t stop. They know that their peanuts threaten people’s health, but they refuse to remove them because they are such an important part of their brand identity.

It begs the question WHY? I believe there are two reasons:

1. Waiting – your burger doesn’t hit the grill at Five Guys until you order it. And they will only cook it one way . . . well done. This means you are waiting around 10 minutes for your food. The free peanuts serve as an appetizer while waiting for your food. They give you something to do and stop you from getting hangry.

2. Warning – the bins of peanuts serve as a not-so-subtle warning. The fries are cooked in peanut oil. Without the bins, it could be easy for someone with a peanut allergy to mistakenly eat the fries.

Sometimes a Pink Goldfish causes an allergic reaction. 

What’s your take on this policy? Nuts or a smart differentiator?

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Stan Phelps walks the walk. He stands out in the sea of sameness by modeling his own Differentiated Experience (DX) message: Differentiation isn’t just about what you say, it’s about what you do and, more importantly, how and why you do it. Stan leverages his unique collection of 5,000+ case studies on customer, employee, and brand experience to engage audiences with informative learning-based experiences. He believes purposeful DX wins the hearts of employees and customers, and differentiation ultimately boosts loyalty, retention, referrals, and results.

Find Stan’s in-person and virtual keynotes, workshops, and Goldfish tank programs at StanPhelps.com.