Five Guys offers complimentary peanuts to customers as a gesture of hospitality, but the snack sends a very different message to part of the population. For people with peanut allergies, every Five Guys location in the U.S. is a health hazard; the burger chain even posts signs in its windows saying as much. The restaurant doesn't profit off giving snacks away for free—or excluding potential customers—but peanuts have been a fixture of Five Guys for more than two decades. As Mashed reports, there's a clever reason behind this baffling business tactic.
In 2017, a former Five Guys employee revealed a simple explanation for the peanut bins in a Reddit AMA. As they put it, "The peanuts are to distract the customers so that they won't stare at us."
In the context of how Five Guys operates, this makes sense. Burgers take slightly longer to cook there than they do at typical fast food chains because employees are forbidden from pressing down on the patties. This hands-off approach is meant to ensure the meat stays juicy. Every burger made at Five Guys is also cooked well done to avoid diners getting sick (and to avoid getting sued).
Fast food customers used to snappy service may get impatient while waiting for a burger at Five Guys. The all-you-can-eat peanuts give them something to do besides complaining and holding up the line even further.
Giving people free food is an easy way to keep them happy, but that still doesn't explain why Five Guys chooses peanuts over something friendlier to people with allergies. According to Stan Phelps, the snack may double as a warning sign. The restaurant uses peanut oil to cook its fries, so people with severe peanut allergies still wouldn't be able to eat there even if the peanut bins were taken away. But unlike whole peanuts, it's much easier for someone to accidentally eat a french fry fried in peanut oil without realizing it. Five Guys notes the use of peanut oil on its menu, but the boxes overflowing with peanuts are much harder to ignore.
As long as the chain fries its food in peanut oil, the free peanuts will likely remain part of its brand. It's one of several examples of the company sticking to its ways, like the strict "no delivery" rule it enforces with everyone, even the president. Here are more facts about Five Guys you should know.