December 4, 2012

Burger joint becomes a political hot potato in Maine

Three of Maine's congressional delegates ask local Five Guys Burgers and Fries franchises to use Maine potatoes.

By Meredith Goad
Staff Writer

They want Maine fries with that.

click image to enlarge

In this April 2011 file photo, Steve St. Jean and Leah Halsey from Portland taste the famous cheeseburgers and fries at the Five Guys Grand Opening at 425 Fore Street.

Gordon Chibroski / Staff Photographer

Sen. Olympia Snowe and and Maine Reps. Chellie Pingree and Mike Michaud have written to the owners of Five Guys Burgers and Fries franchises in New England, asking them to use Maine potatoes in their Maine restaurants.

Citing the state's "long, proud history of potato production," the members of Congress wrote: "As you know, purchasing locally can cut down on transportation costs as well as result in fresher food. 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."

There is only one Five Guys in Maine, at 425 Fore St. in Portland. There are plans to open another on Stillwater Avenue in Bangor next spring.

The New England franchises are owned by Gene Prentice and Jamal Bourdoute, but decisions about what potatoes to use in the Five Guys restaurants are made at the corporate level. Molly Catalano, spokesman for Five Guys corporate office in Lorton, Va., said franchisees are required to purchase potatoes from distributors chosen by the corporation.

Catalano said Five Guys sources its potatoes from Idaho, Washington and Oregon. Potatoes from Prince Edward Island and Canada are used for fries in some Canadian stores. She said the company is open to buying Maine potatoes in the future.

"We are actually going to be testing some Maine potatoes this year," Catalano said. "We've found that the potatoes that are best for our French fries are grown above the 42nd parallel, so there are other states -- Maine, Michigan, North Dakota -- that do grow potatoes above that line, and each year we re-evaluate. This year we happen to be looking at some Burbank potatoes from Maine."

She said Maine distributors who would like the company to take a look at their potatoes are welcome to contact Five Guys.

"We're open to evaluating those potatoes," she said.

Staff Writer Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at:

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