Five Guys will pursue “even more aggressive growth” in 2020, with 14 units lined up in the UK, CEO John Eckbert told MCA’s Food to Go conference.

New openings for 2020 include Swindon Designer Outlet, London Baker Street, London Tower Bridge, Bath, Brighton and Chiswick.

The Sir Charles Dunstone-backed joint venture will also open further sites in France, Germany, Spain, which are part of its European footprint, to reach a total of 200 stores, Eckbert said.

He said: “We have had a bit of a stabilisation of growth in past couple of years, but 2020 will see even more aggressive growth. We will go from from 145 to 200 stores, which is 33% growth rate.

“It feels quite ambitious for those of us involved, and a bit challenging. But we do appreciate that kind of environment, we’re used to it.”

Meanwhile, Eckbert said the company was designing a click & collect concept store, which would work like a drive thru, but use geofencing to allow customers to receive their food from a specific pick-up point.

He said Five Guys had revamped its app to make it as frictionless and with as few clicks as possible.

Self-ordering tablets and kiosks are also being explored, but Eckbert said he was “not convinced” it was right for the brand.

“We’re going to try it and see what happens,” he said. “We know there’s a customer demographic that doesn’t want to talk to anyone, and would rather interact with digital interface, but we know how important that human interaction is to our brand values.”

Eckbert attributed the European venture’s success to the founding Murrell family’s foresight in tapping into two major trends, freshness and customisation.

Meanwhile he said the company had managed to keep labour costs low despite paying staff more than its peers.

“If you find someone good, it’s so much cheaper to keep them than to find someone new,” he said. “If you can retain employees that are great, that you love, we find they work much more effectively and efficiently. It’s enabled us to pay more and have less labour cost.”

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