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A Shake Shack employee takes a tray of food to a customer outside the company’s new burger restaurant in London.

The burger battle of Britain

2 US invaders to face plenty of competition

Associated Press photos
Five Guys, which opened its first U.K. store in Covent Garden on July 4, is a family outfit that started in Washington, D.C., in 1986 and has expanded to more than 1,000 locations in the U.S. and Canada.

– A burger war is breaking out in Covent Garden with the arrival from the United States of two of the most successful and respected companies in the business.

Five Guys, a family outfit that started in 1986 in Washington, D.C., has expanded to more than 1,000 locations in the U.S. and Canada. Danny Meyer created Shake Shack at a hot-dog cart in New York and in 2004 won approval for a permanent kiosk.

Both will compete with not only each other but homegrown burger chains and giants such as McDonald’s and Burger King in the British market.

“We’ve set up a British company and we would never have decided to come here if we didn’t believe that if we do our job, the market could support a minimum of three,” Meyer said.

It will be the first British outpost for Meyer, whose Union Square Hospitality Group owns venues across Manhattan, including Union Square Cafe and Gramercy Tavern. Shake Shack has outlets in six U.S. states, the Middle East and Turkey.

“What’s exciting about it from our standpoint is that while eating a burger is not a new trend – it’s been going on since the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s – people are now saying, ‘When I want a burger, I want it to be a good burge’,” Meyer said.

“People used to be in a position where they had three choices: McDonalds, Burger King and Wendy’s. People picked a favorite and that’s where they ate. Now what we’re seeing is that because every burger place is doing it slightly differently, when I want a burger, I can pay a little bit more but it will be better and it will be different.”

As in New York, customers will be given a beeper and called when their food is ready.

The outlet is right inside the market at Covent Garden.

Five Guys is on Long Acre, a five-minute walk away. The restaurant offers about 15 toppings for its burgers free of charge.

The initial plan is for five outlets in and around London before expanding across Britain. Last July, Forbes reported that Five Guys was the fastest-growing U.S. restaurant chain, doubling its number of stores since 2009.