Delegation encourages burger chain to serve Maine fries

11 years ago

Delegation encourages burger chain

to serve Maine fries

By Scott Mitchell Johnson

Staff Writer

    WASHINGTON, D.C. — Maine’s legislative leaders are asking the owners of Five Guys Burgers and Fries franchises in New England to use Maine potatoes when making french fries at their Portland restaurant, as well as a new location scheduled to open next year in Bangor.

    In a letter dated Dec. 3 to franchise owners Gene Prentice and Jamal Bourdoute, U.S. Sen. Olympia J. Snowe and Reps. Chellie Pingree and Mike Michaud appealed to the owners to buy local. The chain typically uses Idaho potatoes.

    “As you know, purchasing locally can significantly cut down on transportation costs, as well as result in fresher food,” the politicians wrote. “Additionally, a growing number of consumers in Maine and around the country are keenly interested in supporting local farmers and appreciate having a connection to those growing their food.

    “Every dollar spent on local agricultural products helps keep farming businesses viable, strengthens our local communities, and helps grow our state’s economy,” they said.

    The delegation even used Five Guys founder Jerry Murrell’s own words to make their case. In the April 1, 2010 edition of Inc. Magazine, Murrell described how he built the restaurant — by choosing the freshest, highest quality ingredients.

    “We try to get our potatoes grown north of the 42nd parallel, which is a pain in the neck. Potatoes are like oak trees — the slower they grow, the more solid they are. We like northern potatoes, because they grow in the daytime when it is warm, but then they stop at night when it cools down,” said Murrell.

    “When you make your next order for potatoes for the Five Guys restaurant in Portland, and when you make your first order for potatoes for your Bangor location, we hope you will consider potatoes grown above the 42nd parallel in northern Maine,” Maine’s leadership wrote.

    Over her nearly four-decade career in the U.S. Congress, Snowe has been a tireless champion for Maine’s potato industry.

    “Maine’s potato industry is simply iconic, and the crop our hardworking farmers produce each year is second to none,” said Snowe. “As Five Guys’ presence in our state grows, I urge the company to buy their potatoes locally here in Maine — not only for their superior taste and quality, but to support our state’s economy.”

    Michaud said Maine growers produce top quality potatoes.

    “The potato industry is a critical part of Maine’s economy,” he said. “Using Maine potatoes at Five Guys locations in Portland and Bangor would provide new opportunities for Maine’s potato farmers and, of course, make great french fries.”

    This summer, Pingree successfully convinced cruise ship companies to buy Maine lobster when they visit Maine, and is hoping Five Guys will also agree to buy local.

    “Buying locally not only guarantees fresh ingredients, but it’s also good business because every dollar spent locally stays right here in the Maine economy,” she said.

    U.S. Sen. Susan Collins agreed with her legislative colleagues and sent her own letter to the Five Guys owners.

    “Maine’s warm summer days, cool nights, ample rainfall and nutrient rich soil make for an ideal growing location for potatoes. As a native of Aroostook County, Maine, I can attest that Maine potatoes are of the highest quality and the best tasting in the United States,” said Collins.

    “As Five Guys expands in Maine, it has the opportunity to purchase this excellent, locally grown product,” she wrote. “Purchasing local products can result in fresher food and limit transportation costs while supporting Maine farms and communities.”

    Shawn Doyen of Willard C. Doyen & Sons Farm in Mapleton is hopeful the chain will start serving Maine spuds.

    “From what I’ve read, the whole Five Guys chain nationwide goes through a lot of potatoes, so if the chains in Maine or even the Northeast would use Maine potatoes, that would be a help to this area,” said Doyen, who serves on the Maine Potato Board and is the organization’s 2013 Young Farmer of the Year. “Any Five Guys chains that I’ve seen have a pallet of potatoes sitting there when you walk in. If they had Maine on the bag it would help raise awareness, and possibly encourage customers to go buy Maine potatoes in the grocery stores.

    “If you had a national chain using Maine potatoes,” he said, “it would be good advertisement for the whole industry up here. Hopefully Five Guys will consider using Maine potatoes. Transportation-wise it would probably be cheaper for them, and it would be a boost for our growers.”